Google Admits Buzz Social Network Testing Flaws

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 4:17
Posted in category Buzz, Google, News, Search Engines

Google has admitted to BBC News that testing of its controversial social network Buzz was insufficient.

The firm has had to make a series of changes to the service after a ferocious backlash from users concerned about intrusions of privacy.

The BBC understands that Buzz was only tested internally and bypassed more extensive trials with external testers – used for many other Google services.

Google said that it was now working “extremely hard” to fix the problems.

“We’re very early in this space. This was one of our first big attempts,” Todd Jackson, Buzz product manager, told BBC News.

“We’ve been testing Buzz internally at Google for a while. Of course, getting feedback from 20,000 Googlers isn’t quite the same as letting Gmail users play with Buzz in the wild.”

Many of the firm’s new services are tested by the so-called Google Trusted Tester program, a network of friends and family of Google employees who are given confidential access to products before they launch.

Buzz was not tested by this program.

The firm has now set up a “war room” at Google HQ to bring together engineers and product managers to make decisions about what changes need to be made to Buzz.

“If it becomes clear that people don’t think we’ve done enough, we’ll make more changes,” said Mr Jackson.

He acknowledged that many of the networks “tens of millions” of users were “rightfully upset” and that the firm was “very, very sorry”.

“We know we need to improve things.”

Privacy priorities:
Buzz was launched on 9 February. The service, which is integrated with Gmail, allows users to post status updates, share content and read and comment on friends’ posts.

One problem that immediately caused concern was Google’s decision to automatically give users a ready-made circle of friends based on the people they most frequently e-mailed.

Unless users changed settings in their profile, this list could automatically be made public, allowing anyone to see who a user corresponded with most frequently.

Mr Jackson told BBC News that the decision to create these automatic lists was borne out of the idea that Google “wanted to provide a great user experience straight out of the box”.

But privacy experts immediately pointed out this could cause problems for journalists, businesses or even people having an illicit affair.

Evgeny Morozov, a Belarus-born researcher and blogger who looks at the political implications of the internet, also raised concerns.

“If I were working for the Iranian or the Chinese government, I would immediately dispatch my internet geek squads to check on Google Buzz accounts for political activists and see if they have any connections that were previously unknown to the government,” he wrote

As a result of complaints, Google said Buzz would now only suggest people who a user might want to be friends with.

The company has also announced steps to make it easier to disable Buzz altogether and to ensure that people’s accounts do not automatically connect with online Picasa photo albums and items that people may store in their Google Reader accounts.

The changes were in part thrashed out at a company-wide meeting on 12 February at Google headquarters.

“We realize that we didn’t get things quite right – we’re working extremely hard to fix this,” said Mr Jackson.

He said that “transparency and control” were “top priorities” and that users would “continue to see improvements”.

Code challenge:
Other possible changes include a better “preferences menu” that will allow users to better tailor what appears in their inbox, and a more prominent “mute” option to switch the service off.

Another idea, said Mr Jackson, was to create a separate service that was not part of Gmail.

“We think that integration with Gmail was absolutely the right way to go – we wanted to make Buzz easily accessible to people,” he said.

“We also want to give people who don’t use Gmail the ability to use Buzz, so we’re exploring the idea of offering a separate destination site.”

The most recently announced changes would go live “this week”, he added.

“We worked around the clock to make the code changes for these improvements; now we’re putting them through a full testing process to identify any bugs and translating them into 53 languages so they reach all Gmail users.”

Asked if the Google founders – Larry Page and Sergey Brin – or any of the executive team would issue an apology for breaching their user’s trust, a Google spokesperson said: “Google has apologised – we’re very sorry for the concern we caused.”

Source: news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8517613.stm

Google Launches Buzz

Friday, February 12, 2010 9:43

Google aims to take on Facebook with new social feature called ‘Buzz’

Google, which has faltered in its attempts to break into the booming social networking business, is making another bid to counter the growing influence of Silicon Valley rival Facebook and San Francisco upstart Twitter with new products that make it easier to share with friends on its Internet e-mail service Gmail.

Google The Internet giant held a press conference at its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters Tuesday to show off “Buzz,” which incorporates social media tools such as photo and video sharing and status updates in Gmail. Google Buzz, which launches Tuesday, will also be accessible on mobile phones. And Google will eventually also debut a version of Buzz for businesses.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin, vice president of product management Bradley Horowitz, vice president of engineering Vic Gundotra, and product manager Todd Jackson were on hand to show it off. The tagline for Google Buzz is “a Google approach to sharing.”

Buzz is perhaps Google’s boldest effort yet to get social. It is taking on Facebook and Twitter as well as other hot start-ups such as Foursquare (and borrowing from Gmail creator and ex-Googler Paul Buchheit’s FriendFeed which was absorbed by Facebook).

The new service has five features, Jackson said. You will automatically follow the people you e-mail and chat with on a regular basis. You will be able to share content from around the Web, including YouTube videos, Flickr photos, site links and other materials. You will be able to share your thoughts in a public way and in a private way. You will get social updates in your inbox. And Google will help you find only the stuff that matters by recommending popular content. The mobile version of Buzz can figure out where you are and show you nearby buzz posts.

“Google has long said their goal is to organize the world’s information. With the introduction of Buzz, you can see the company recognizes how social has become a ‘Google scale’ problem that needs improved discovery and real relevancy,” said technology blogger Louis Gray. “People are sharing their content in a wide variety of social sites online, and Buzz is the first product from Google that looks to harness this data in one place and provide a platform for discussion.”

Last month, Google introduced a new feature that displays search results related to their friends and other members of their social networks. Google has been trying for years to gain a foothold in social networking as its smaller, more nimble competitors steal some of its thunder. Orkut, its social networking service, gained a mass following in Brazil and nowhere else. Attempts to buy its way into the arena also failed, when Google acquiring — then ultimately scrapped — the services offered by Twitter competitor Jaiku and Foursquare forebearer Dodgeball.

Analysts remain skeptical that this effort will catapult Google into the social stratosphere. Meanwhile, Facebook has exploded in popularity. It has become such a central part of many people’s lives that it’s replacing e-mail. That’s exactly what Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is looking to do: turn his site into the starting point and focal point of the Internet experience. Facebook’s strategy of connecting the world’s people, versus Google’s strategy of organizing the world’s information, seems to be resonating. So now Google says it’s going to organize the world’s social information.

The Silicon Valley showdown is heating up. Google is still the Web’s No. 1 most-visited site, with 173 million U.S. visitors in December, according to ComScore Media Metrix. But Facebook is gaining. Facebook was the fourth-most visited site in December, with 111.8 million visitors.

“Google has tried to succeed with social products that just haven’t caught on. There’s no guarantee Google Buzz will be any different,” search blogger Danny Sullivan wrote in a blog post.

Google To Acquire Social Search Service, Aardvark

Friday, February 12, 2010 9:37
Posted in category Google, News, Search Engines

Google on Thursday confirmed that it has acquired social search start-up Aardvark, a company founded by ex-Google employees.

“We have signed a definitive agreement to acquire Aardvark, but we don’t have any additional details to share right now,” said a company spokesperson in an e-mail.

Google has not confirmed a price, but a report on TechCrunch says that Google will pay about $50 million.

Aardvark is a matchmaking service for questions and answers. It allows users to submit queries and then connects the searcher to friends or associates who are likely to have the best answer.

By acquiring the company, Google is deepening its already substantial commitment to social networking — an interest evident in the launch of Google Buzz earlier this week — and is expanding beyond algorithmic problem solving toward services with more of a human component.

And a greater emphasis on people might be just what Google needs: The company’s focus on data, automation, and scalability has meant that the people-oriented side of its business, such as customer service, often comes up short.

In a blog post last week, Aardvark’s CTO Damon Horowitz acknowledged the company’s debt to Google. The paper in which Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page describe their PageRank algorithm, he said, was the inspiration for a paper that Aardvark submitted to an upcoming technical conference, “Anatomy of a Large-Scale Social Search Engine.”

Speaking at an event called TEDxSoMa in January, Horowitz sounded like the ideal candidate to help turn Google into a social network. “The primary goal for technology should not be replacing human intelligence,” he said. “It should be facilitating human interaction.”

Google’s last social networking acquisitions, Zingku and Jaiku, occurred in September and October 2007.

Source:  informationweek.com/news/storage/data_protection/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=222900105

Goojje Launches In China

Sunday, January 31, 2010 14:10
Posted in category Google, News, Search Engines

Google ‘sister’ launches in China:
A new search engine and social network provider called Goojje has appeared online in China.

The site contains very similar branding to Google, and the final syllable “jje” sounds similar to the Mandarin word for older sister (jiejie).

Goojje’s search results appear to be filtered for sensitive content in accordance with Chinese regulations.

Google has recently objected to those restrictions, but the new site appears to be urging it to remain in China.

Google said on 12 January that hackers had tried to infiltrate its software coding and the e-mail accounts of Chinese human rights activists, in a “highly sophisticated” attack.

The California-based firm – which launched in China in 2006 – said it would remain in China only if the government relaxed censorship.

According to the Reuters news agency, Goojje has a message on its site which reads: “Sister was very happy when brother gave up the thought of leaving and stayed for sister”.

While Goojje sounds like “sister”, the word Google sounds similar to the Mandarin word gege, which means “big brother”.

Google has declined to comment.

Source: news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8483597.stm

No Upgrade Pricing for Microsoft Office 2010

Saturday, January 9, 2010 9:57
Posted in category Microsoft, News

For as long as anyone can remember Microsoft Office has a cheaper ‘upgrade’ price option – but not for Office 2010.

Microsoft has confirmed to Office Watch that there will be no upgrade pricing offers for existing Office users.

Everyone, existing customer or not, will pay the same prices for Office 2010 with no ‘reward’ for customer loyalty.

Over the years the ‘upgrade’ offer has been gradually limited. Many moons ago there was a ‘cross-grade’ or ‘competitive upgrade’ price to encourage people to switch from rivals like Word-Perfect.

Back in 1997 Office Watch saved our readers lots of money. Downloading the free Compuserve or AOL software or getting it from a widely available disk was enough to qualify for the cheaper Office 97 pricing. Alas Microsoft closed that loophole.

With each new Office version the rules on upgrade/cross-grade were tightened. The rival products were dropped from the list, then upgrades were limited to the past two versions. And now the whole concept of upgrades is gone from Office.

No more version hopping:

Some Office users would ‘version hop’ – upgrading every second release of Office to maintain their entitlement to upgrade pricing.

There’s no reason to do that anymore. Stick with the version of Office you have until there’s a compelling reason to change.

And if you do decide to get a new Microsoft Office suite, you’ll pay more.

In addition there is no psychological encouragement to stick with Microsoft Office by getting a cheaper price for sticking with Microsoft. Some might decide that instead of paying full price they’ll look at OpenOffice or Google Docs instead.

Presumably Microsoft figures that most people are so attached and familiar with MS Office that they stick with it regardless – and they may well be right.

Source: news.office-watch.com/t/n.aspx?a=1359&z=12

.CN domains no longer available outside China

Thursday, January 7, 2010 9:42
Posted in category Domain Names, News

CNNIC excludes oversea registrars from .CN registrations

CNNIC, the official registry for .CN, announced that all oversea registrars will no longer be allowed to register .CN domains starting with January 6, 2010, 18:00 PM (Beijing Time). The registration stop is planned to be temporarily. According to the Chinese registry, difficulties in handling the comprehensive new application material are the reason for this drastic development. The new application material is required since the middle of December 2009, when CNNIC suddenly changed its registration policies.

CNNIC has not specified a date at which the exclusion of oversea registrars from .CN registrations is removed again. The registry has announced to further explore methodologies on how to verify the registration information with its oversea partners. As soon as a new mechanism is established, CNNIC will reopen the registration.

We hope to be able to offer you .CN domains again soon. Prior to this last change, CNNIC has carried out two more changes in its registration policies:
1. Since January 1st, 2010, China domestic registrants are no longer allowed to register a .CN domain via an oversea registrar.
2. If any registrant’s business license or personal ID are not in Chinese or English, he has to file in a notarized English translation of these documents for domain name application starting with January 15th, 2010, 9:00 AM (Beijing Time).

Source: www.rrpproxy.net/show_news.php#news1104

CCNIC Notification :

In order to further enhance the authenticity, accuracy, and integrality of the domain name registration information, now notify as following:

1. Domain name applicants need to submit the formal paper based application material when making the online application to the registrar. The application material includes the original application form with business seal, company business license (photocopy), and registrant ID (photocopy).

2. Registrar should carefully review the application material. When application is deemed qualified, registrar need to submit the application material via fax or E-mail to CNNIC, and withhold the original application material.

3. From the day of the submission of online application, if CNNIC does not receive the formal paper based application material within 5 days or the application material auditing is not qualified, the domain name to be applied will be deleted.

4. The above regulations will be executed since 9:00AM (Beijing Time), Dec 14th, 2009.

Baidu Launching Online-Video Company

Thursday, January 7, 2010 9:21
Posted in category News

High-quality online video has been in high demand in China, and Chinese search provider Baidu is hoping to fulfill that need.

Baidu announced on Wednesday that it is creating an independent company to offer premium online videos to Chinese Internet users. The new entity is designed to work with content providers to supply copyrighted material, including movies, TV shows, sports, and animation, and it will generate its revenue through advertisements.

“As China’s Internet industry evolves, we have seen increasing demand for high-quality video content on our search platform. By establishing this new company, we will be able to better serve our users and customers with superior content and focused resources,” Xuyang Ren, Baidu’s vice president of marketing and business development, said in a statement.

“Online video is a rapidly growing sector in China, and I believe Baidu’s search platform will provide a solid foundation for the new company to address the increasing demand for premium content,” said Yu Gong, former president and chief operating officer of China Mobile’s 12580 hotline service, who is set to head the new venture as CEO.

Baidu, which has outshined Google’s Chinese search engine to become China’s top search provider, has been eager to get into the online-video business.

But video has long been a thorny issue in China, as the country has grappled with video piracy for years. DVDs of pirated movies and TV shows have been a lucrative business in the Chinese market, with obviously no compensation to the studios, networks, and other content providers. Pressure from the United States has pushed the Chinese government to try to crack down on the illegal trade. But the low cost and wide availability of pirated videos have kept it a thriving market.

Piracy has gone more high-tech in recent years. More and more illegal videos, including full-length movies and TV shows, have shown up on popular Chinese video-streaming sites such as Youku and Tudou. A group of content providers filed a lawsuit late last year against some of these Chinese sites, charging them with copyright violation, China.org reported. So far, the case has resulted in a legal judgment against Youku, ordering it to pay a small sum in damages.

TVs with Internet access have also become a new haven for video piracy, as Chinese users can now download illegal videos directly off the Web into their living rooms. The Google-funded service Xunlei, a Chinese peer-to-peer file-sharing service, has been the target of lawsuits, alleging that it distributes copyrighted movies and TV shows without compensating the studios or networks.

Source: news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-10426495-93.html?part=rss&subj=news&tag=2547-1_3-0-20

Bit.ly Partners with Security Firms to Block Spams

Thursday, December 3, 2009 8:33
Posted in category News, Social Networking, Twitter

Bit.ly Partners with Security Firms to Block Spams, Scams from Twitter

Bit.ly, the service Twitter uses to shorten URLs to keep them under the service’s 140-character limit, announced partnerships on Monday with Verisign, Websense and Sophos that are designed to keep spam and malicious software off of the network.

The partnerships should help solve a major problem with the service: that you don’t know where your browser will take you after you click on a shortened link, which makes Twitter the perfect potential hideaway for spammers, scammers, phishers and the like. Concern about the security of Twitter links spread last month, after “search engine optimization experts” Roman Latkovic and Robert LaQuey, Ph.D claimed in a $8 study that Bit.ly and other URL shorteners pose a dangerous threat to Twitter users.

“Bit.ly is not alone; there are more than 100 URL shortening services online and each one of them could be used to plant malicious codes and to infect users computer, or to steal her or his data or even identity,” wrote LaQuey in an e-mail to wired.com.

Bit.ly’s new partnerships aim to solve that problem in three ways.

Verisign’s iDefense service will screen IP addresses, domains and URLs based on its reputation database, to find those that “host exploits, malicious code, command and control servers, drop sites and other nefarious activity,” according to Bit.ly general manager Andrew Cohen.

WebSense’s ThreatSeeker Cloud will analyze the content on pages linked to through Bit.ly in real-time to identify and block “spammy URLs, malicious content and phishing sites.”

Meanwhile, Sophos rounds out the equation by analyzing the behavior of potential spammers to “go[] beyond blacklists, to proactively detect spam and malware.”

Bit.ly owes much of its success to its status as Twitter’s URL shortener of choice — one reason the company raised $2 million earlier this year, while Redirx (coded by a friend of mine), which also shortens URLs, is on sale for $47.

Bit.ly is one of the largest sharing services on the Web, with millions of shortened URLs created every day,” said Cohen in a statement. “A large part of our success is due to the trust users have in our service and we work hard to earn that trust by warning our users about spam and malicious content.”

Blocking every single malicious link from Twitter is likely an impossible task, but these partnerships should go a long way towards putting Twitter and its users at ease about their URL shortener of choice.

Source:www.wired.com/epicenter/2009/11/bitly-partners-with-security-firms-to-block-spams-scams-from-twitter/

Technorati Updates With New Features

Wednesday, October 14, 2009 6:08

Today is a significant day.  Not only did comScore rank Technorati Media as the fifth largest social media property, we’re also pleased to announce the re-launch of a wholly new Technorati.com. Technorati was founded to help people find great blog content, and with this launch, we’ve improved some of the existing ways and added a couple new ways.

The Technorati.com beta site you see today has literally been rebuilt from the ground up. When you take a look at the new site, you’ll see some things you like, and you’ll notice some things that are gone (some of which will be back soon). But we guarantee you’ll see a more stable site that helps you find the blog content you’re looking for. We’ve already gone into a lot of the “why” behind the changes, so without further ado, here’s what’s changed.

Technorati Authority:
In the past, we based Technorati Authority on six months of blogosphere data. Because most searches are looking for items less than a month old, we’re going to narrow that window in a similar way. In the past, because the data window was so long, Authority and the Top 100 lists it powered were relatively static.  With the new algorithm, the resulting Authority will better reflect the fast-changing nature of the blogosphere.  Its new inherent volatility will also show which blogs are rising and falling in authority, rewarding authors on posting frequency, context and linking behavior, as well as other data inputs.

We are also excited to announce Topical Authority. As opposed to overall Technorati Authority, Topical Authority is limited to a specific category. Some blogs may rank in more than one category.

Search:
Our search previously prized recency above all else – the real time web – and the old algorithm delivered the last result, not the best. As many high authority blogs have earned a mainstream media status, we’ve added more weight “relevancy” to deliver the most relevant results from authoritative sources while still acknowledging timeliness. Simply put, when you do a search, the results should be a lot better.

Improved blog directory:
The new blog directory is vastly improved.  Of note, you can now view top blogs overall by Authority, AND top blogs by category by Authority.  The results are something readers have requested for years: Top Lists for major categories, AND the daily risers and fallers in each category as well.

Original articles:
Bloggers can now directly publish articles on Technorati.com.  This provides a unique opportunity and yet another way for authors to present their content to a larger audience, directly by presenting articles to millions of readers and indirectly by receiving traffic from links back to their own blog or site.  Conversely, it also provides the audience yet another way to discover great content and new authors.  Down the road, we envision further opportunities for some participating authors who may choose to also join Technorati Media.  As this is a totally new feature, we want to stress that this is additive to the discovery process: readers will still be able to search algorithmically selected content, browse the directory for blogs in favorite categories and now read a selection of in-depth articles. Find out how you can contribute an article.

What’s gone for now?
With six years of history behind us, we have also discovered what’s important and not important in our offerings.  As such, some things will go away permanently, and others will return later with enhanced utility that reflects the new features of the site.  Here’s what’s coming back shortly after launch:

  • Technorati Charts and API: both will be returning later.
  • Widgets – For those sites with widgets on their sites, there’s no need to worry.  Some widgets will continue to serve as they have in the past, and some that utilized legacy Technorati technology will either change slightly or temporarily disappear without any affect on web pages. Technorati will be developing some exciting new widgets that match the new features in the site.
  • s.technorati.com is still there, but it’s moved to the main site at Technorati.com/search.
  • Watchlists are gone.
  • Some (but not all) RSS feeds.

And a special mention to our partners:

  • JS-Kit for providing comments.
  • ShrinkTheWeb for providing site thumbnails.
  • Get Satisfaction for support

And finally, we want to thank all of the publishers that are part of Technorati Media. In the 15 months since we launched, Technorati Media has grown into the largest social media advertising network.  With over 400 influential blogs and niche social networks and communities, the network reaches 108 million monthly unique visitors.  We enable marketers to engage with social media at scale by approximating the audience reach of a large social network. Our publishers have enabled five quarters of consecutive growth, and the new Technorati.com.

Next week, we’ll release the 2009 State of the Blogosphere report (with a preview at Blog World Expo this Friday). This is our biggest effort yet with a survey executed by the well known political polling firm Penn Schoen and Berlind, interviews from more than a dozen of today’s most successful professional bloggers, and additional data sources.

Source: blog.technorati.com/2009/10/a-totally-new-technoraticom-technorati-media-rising.html

Twitter Adds “Report as Spam” Button

Wednesday, October 14, 2009 5:51
Posted in category News, Social Networking, Twitter
Twitter Adds Report as Spam Button

Twitter Adds "Report as Spam" Button

Today we’ve added another tool to our spam fighting toolbox that will give users the ability to flag bad accounts on Twitter.

Folks can now help us conquer spam by calling our attention to a profile they find questionable. Click the “Report as spam” button under the Actions section of a profile’s sidebar and our Trust and Safety team will check it out to see what needs to be done. No automated action will be taken as a result of reporting a user as spam (in other words, it can’t be used to incite an angry mob against an account you don’t like.) And once you report a profile it will automatically be blocked from following or replying to you. You nailed it!

Our spam fighting tools will continue to evolve as new behaviors emerge, and as always, we’ll keep trust and safety at the top of our list.

S0urce: blog.twitter.com/2009/10/help-us-nail-spammers.html