Be on the wave or under it
The News – 10/06/05
What’s Google Up To?
As you know, I am now a Google business partner, having taken their coin to the tune of a righteous $9.47 since I started offering AdSense ads on the Website version of this newsletter. As part of the deal, I had to agree not to “engage in any action or practice that reflects poorly on Google or otherwise disparages or devalues Google’s reputation or goodwill.”
Despite that, I have to ask, “What the heck is Google up to?”
They just announced free Wi-Fi for everyone in San Francisco. Prior to that, they announced Google Secure Access, a free Virtual Private Network service for anyone with any Wi-Fi connection. They recent bought a stealthy startup that purports to be working on wireless applications. And they bought Keyhole, which they turned into Google Earth.
Are they out to rule the world?
To find out, let’s take a look at what these various recent moves have in common. They all are pieces of an advertising puzzle so brilliantly nefarious that you just couldn’t call it evil. But first, a look at the facts.
- Google is the world’s most-used search engine
- They make most of their money from advertising (in a very non-evil way!)
- They launched Google Local, which allows for location-specific searches, in February 2005
- Their Gmail service allows them to scan your email for keywords so they can advertise to you
- Google Desktop search and Picasa allow you to index everything on your hard drive, and communicate some information back to Google
- Google Personal History/Personalized Search service allows you to store your searching history on Google’s servers for later access
- Their Google Secure Access service sets up a Virtual Private Network connection between your wireless laptop and Google’s proxy server. That means all your traffic is secure. It also means all your traffic flows through Google’s server, where it is decrypted and sent out on the Internet. Google also has an application called Google Web Accelerator, which does much the same thing.
Here are some more facts. First, excerpts from Google Secure Access’ terms of service:
- Google may log some information from your web page requests as may the websites that you visit.
- Google Secure Access does not log cookies and strips potentially sensitive query data from the end of requests to help better protect your privacy.
- Google also logs a small set of non-personally identifiable information -- such as routing information, session durations and operating system and Google Secure Access client version numbers -- in order to create your Google Secure Access connection, understand how people are using Google Secure Access and help us maintain the Google Secure Access client.
- If Google concludes that we are required by law or have a good faith belief that collection, preservation or disclosure of additional information is reasonably necessary to protect the rights, property or safety of Google, our users or the public, such as if we believe the Google Secure Access service is being abused, we may for a limited period of time preserve additional internet traffic or other information.
- We may store and process personal information collected on our site in the United States or any other country in which Google Inc. or its agents maintain facilities. By using our services, you consent to the transfer of your information among these facilities, including those located outside your country.
- We may share aggregated information with others. Examples of this include the number of users who searched for "Mars Rover" or how many users clicked on a particular advertisement.
- Google may present links in a format that enables us to understand whether they have been followed. We use this information to understand and improve the quality of Google's search technology. For instance, this data helps us determine how often users are satisfied with the first result of a query and how often they proceed to later results.
- Because we keep back-up copies of data for the purposes of recovery from errors or system failure, residual copies of email may remain on our systems for some time, even after you have deleted messages from your mailbox or after the termination of your account [italics mine].
- Information displayed or clicked on in your Gmail account (including UI elements, ads, links, and other information) is also recorded.
- If you choose to enable Advanced Features, Google Desktop may send information about the websites that you visit to provide enhanced Google Desktop functions, such as personalizing news displayed in Sidebar.
- Enabling Advanced Features also allows Google Desktop to collect a limited amount of non-personal information from your computer and send it to Google. This includes summary information, such as the number of searches you do and the time it takes for you to see your results, and application reports we'll use to make the program better.
- Your copy of Google Desktop includes a unique application number. When you install Google Desktop, this number and a message indicating whether the installation succeeded is sent back to Google so that we can make the software work better.
Here are yet more facts – a list of Google’s acquisitions over the years, courtesy of Adam Rifkin’s blog, Wikipedia, and Kuro5hin.
2/2001: Deja – back in the day, there was, and still is, a threaded discussion service called USENET originally created by two Duke grad students back in nineteen-seventy-freakin’-nine; Deja archived 500 million messages, pretty much back to the beginning of the commercial Internet in 1995, and ran the Deja News service; Google bought the archive and turned it into Google Groups
9/2001: Outride - a spin-off of Xerox PARC – developers of state-of-the-art model-based search relevance technology
2/2003: Pyra Labs – creator of Blogger blogging software – content for the Google machine – the better to advertise to you
4/2003: Neotonic Software – e-mail customer support
4/2003: Applied Semantics (formerly known as Oingo) – domain name, contextual advertising and enterprise search solutions; most important for Google: technology that understands, organizes and extracts information from Web sites, built in to their AdSense product, to which I am now thrall
9/2003: Kaltix – personalized search to possibly replace or fix PageRank, which may have been broken in part by Google Bombing by bloggers! See the explanation behind the fact that President Bush’s biography at whitehouse.gov is the first entry if you type the single word “failure” into Google. (It’s number 4 on MSN Search and Yahoo, number 2 on Excite and Dumbfind, 7 on AltaVista, not mentioned on Hotbot or Lycos, and is replaced by Michael Moore’s home page on the AOL version of Google, I kid you not!)
10/2003: Sprinks – advertising company that provided ads for Google competitors About.com, Metacrawler.com, and Mamma.com
10/2003: Genius Labs – a Boston-based blogging entity comprised entirely of a guy named Biz Stone; Stone resigned from Google last month.
4/2004: Ignite Logic – provides Web templates for law firms and other small businesses
6/2004: Baidu – Google bought part of Baidu, China's biggest independent Internet search engine
7/2004: Picasa – desktop photo management/storage/search
10/2004: Keyhole – view 3D images of any place on earth as well as tap a rich database of roads, businesses and many other points of interest; became Google Earth
2004: Zipdash – mobile/traffic/mapping company – now working with Google Maps; technology used to develop and launch Google Ride Finder
2004: Where2 – mapping software provider –Australian mapping company mentioned in the 2004 annual report, but not much is known about it. It also had something to do with Google Maps.
3/2005: Urchin – Web analytics company – tools that optimize content and track marketing performance
4/2005: Dodgeball – a two-person cell phone social networking/SMS meetup service – the service can provide you with addresses and directions in major cities; also has flash mob capabilities
7/2005: Akwan Information Technologies – Latin American search company in technology of search as a part of its plan to open an R&D office and expand its presence into Latin and South America.
8/2005: Android Inc. – mysterious mobile software provider
So what is Google up to with all these acquisitions? Perhaps we can glean a little of their direction by examining their 10 Things manifesto. Listed as things Google has found to be true, they form the DNA of the company:
- Focus on the user and all else will follow.
- It's best to do one thing really, really well.
- Fast is better than slow.
- Democracy on the web works.
- You don't need to be at your desk to need an answer.
- You can make money without doing evil.
- There's always more information out there.
- The need for information crosses all borders.
- You can be serious without a suit.
- Great just isn't good enough.
The only one of these principles that I see them violating in their acquisition strategy is number 2, It's best to do one thing really, really well. Yet, depending on where they’re going, these acquisitions may add up to doing one thing; it’s just not limited to what we think Google is doing today as a search engine. Their S-1 filing for their Initial Public Offering (IPO) states: “Google is a global technology leader focused on improving the ways people connect with information. . . Our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
Now let’s look at the parts of the machine Google is building.
- Google has a killer advertising engine, also known as their search engine. They charge to deliver users to Websites, whose owners pay by the click. This ad engine represents the lion’s share of Google’s revenue.
- Google has a killer way to locate and even image every business and residence in the US, and soon the world. Further, they are developing services to allow people to meet based on location, and could thus advertise based on location.
- Google is working on the magic triangle of Internet success: Commerce, Content, and Community.
- Google has struggled to develop eCommerce capabilities. Their Froogle service has been available only as a beta for almost three years. Nonetheless, you have to figure that they’ll work it out.
- Google is developing killer content, from the Google Groups archive to real-time traffic info delivered to cell phones to Google Earth to blogs. They also are planning on digitizing thousands of books. Google now allows you to turn their main page into a quasi-portal, a la Yahoo, with news and weather.
- Google is making many inroads into the blogosphere – buying blogger.com, for example – and trying to challenge Yahoo Groups with their Google Groups service and developing their community chops
- Google has many ways to personally identify your interests, wants, and needs – through Google Personalized search, the cookie they set in your browser (AKA the mark of the beast), and the statistics they gather through Google Desktop and Picasa
- Google has plans to offer free Wi-Fi access to the Internet in San Francisco, driving more users to its servers where their desires can be known
So what are they going to do with this machine? Here’s what I think we’ll see within the next few years:
- Nationwide free Wi-Fi sponsored by Google’s ads and secured by Google Secure Access
- Google will increase their ability to know what you want by tracking searches, by tracking all access through their free Wi-Fi service, and by tracking what you’re searching for on your own computer via Google Desktop
- Google will figure out how to make Froogle a killer eCommerce destination and may even spawn their own PayPal-like payment system, possibly involving cell phone-based payments
- Google will extend further into cell phones, powering social networking applications in order to achieve one of the holy grails of advertising: location-based ads. Google will be able to find you wherever you are and offer ads and coupons based on your location, tastes, and interests.
- Google will release a Linux-based operating system combined with Sun’s OpenOffice running on cheap hardware and featuring Application Service Provider (ASP) applications hosted on Google servers. Of course, this offering will track user behavior.
- Google will build its Website analytics business and its Google Enterprise business to further integrate into the structure of the Web. There may be wink-wink agreements on how taking these services will improve one’s PageRank.
- Google will improve or replace its PageRank service, which has come under criticism
- Google will expand its hegemony worldwide by buying, investing in, or out-competing any offshore competitors.
In other words, Google is building a system to know exactly what you want and deliver as much of it to you as it can wherever you are.
Let’s detail who will be hurt by the creation of this system: Internet Service Providers, Wi-Fi network providers (hey!), other search engines (natch), eCommerce sites, online retailers, cell phone users (hello, ads!), fledgling location-based advertising services, Microsoft, PC manufacturers (cheapo GooglePCs), Website analytics firms, and possibly, people who value their privacy.
Is Google trying to take over the world? You decide. But it’s a mighty good thing these guys promise not to be evil – although they have refused to talk to CNet for printing an article containing sensitive information about Google CEO Eric Schmidt – information that ironically was obtained via Google searches. That actually sounds a little bit evil. In fact, the New York Times thinks Google may be replacing Microsoft as the huge corporation people love to hate.
So hang on to your privacy, if you can, and stay tuned.
- Shameless Self-Promotion Dept.: The WiMAX Guys’ main business is new installs for people who want to set up wireless hotspots such as hotels, warehouses, apartment buildings, and office buildings or hotzones that cover cities. We also sell a knowledge-based Web portal called the MAX K-Base. Check out our main Website at www.TheWiMAXGuys.com.
My wife created a bit of a stir when her op-ed piece was published in the Minneapolis StarTribune newspaper after the election. Her article, “Two Nations, Handcuffed Together,” has been commented on or linked to by more than 85 Websites. She’s now created a Website to capitalize on her newfound pundit status. Check it out at www.debellsworth.com.
Many issues ago I debuted SNS Begware, an opportunity for you, gentle reader, to express your appreciation by tipping your server via PayPal. See the sidebar for more info. Total in the kitty so far: $91.48. Thanks Dave!
And now that I’m partnered with one of the largest advertisers on the planet, Google, that should be kicking in serious coin to the StratVantage coffers. Let’s see. The current total is: $9.47. Great. Read this issue on the Web and click on the ads to feed the kitty.
- The Raw File – SNS is dedicated to delivering the scoop on the latest and greatest. However, I collect lots of information that never makes it into the newsletter before it gets old. I’ve collected all this aging info into a page called The Raw File. This page is the raw information I gather for SNS articles. It’s not pretty, and some may be a little incoherent, but chances are there are still things in TRF that might be news to you. So therefore, use The Raw File at your own risk – it’s 45+ pages of the best stuff that didn’t make it into SNS.
The Raw File
- Error Breeding Error: Unlike the game Telephone that you played as a child, in which a message morphed as it passed from person to person around a room, the Web, being digital, allows for perfect replication of information. But what if that information is erroneous? Well, it gets replicated and transferred just the same as the good stuff. A case in point involves a song lyric I recently tried to check on the Web. There are scads of lyric sites, many of which open multiple pop-up windows when you visit them and even when you leave them. I found recently that they all had one thing in common: a bad line from a favorite song of mine.
To understand why their version of the lyric has to be wrong, first take a look at this excerpt from Chuck Berry’s Too Much Monkey Business:
Salesman talking to me,
trying to run me up a creek,
Says you can buy it, go on try it,
you can pay me next week.
Aw too much monkey business,
too much monkey business,
too much monkey business
for me to be involved again.
Now here are the lyrics for Steve Miller’s Livin' in the USA, as erroneously reported by pretty much every lyrics site:
I got to be free
Doot do do do do doot doot
Living in the U.S.A.
Come on try it, you can buy it, you can leave it next week, yeah
Somebody give me a cheeseburger!
OK, I always knew that Steve was singing “you can buy it, you can try it, you can pay me next week, yeah!” This is perhaps my favorite verse from my favorite song ever, and I’ve listened to it at all volume levels more times than I can count. But I never knew he was quoting a Chuck Berry song. Yet when I was looking up the lyrics to Miller’s song recently, I started to doubt my sanity, since site after lyrics site had the same mistake you see above. And that lyric doesn’t even make sense, for heaven’s sake!
Just goes to show you: Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet. It also proves there’s no honor among thieves. I’m sure every lyrics site I visited had stolen these lyrics from another site, and thus this grievous error was propagated upon an unsuspecting populace. Now just don’t get me started on pompitous!
- Dotcom Bust a Conspiracy? A reader at BusinessWeek Online posted my current favorite conspiracy theory recently. A user with the nickname, DOT COM BUST? had this to say in response to a Business Week article:
Hey, what happened to the dot com bust? Amazing that you could have a bust with a service that never stops growing and everybody only seems to want more of it. Old media was smart. They bankrupted all the dot coms with advertising and used their format to hype the bust until they could catch up. (Remember, they were the last to catch on). They aren't paying so much for those great domain names and talented programmers anymore; not since the "?bust" If HALF the money that went into advertising had gone into development, the landscape would look a LOT different today. People should have gotten a clue when spook operation SAIC snapped up the root server monopoly. What a scam. Oh well, once they get their hands in enuf pockets you can brace yourself for the sudden and mysterious "bandwidth shortage" that's waiting in the wings. (Think GAS) You'll know it's coming when you hear the ringing in your ears; the sound of all those poor helpless baby Bells and corporate giants chiming in harmony.
I mean, now that he mentions it, it seems so obvious!
- If You’ve Made it This Far: Well, there still have been no more entries in our contest. As you may remember, Alert SNS Reader Ken Florian correctly identified the song containing the lyric “And I said yes sir brother sheriff, and that's your wife on the back of my horse.” You may recall that the song is indeed Gangster of Love, a song made popular by Stevie “Guitar” Miller and first appearing on his album Sailor. Miller did not, however, write the song, which was penned by Johnny “Guitar” Watson, who had a minor hit with it in 1957. My favorite other cover recording of the song is by Johnny Winter, on an obscure disk called Black Cat Bone.
You may further recall the contest was to email me the retort to the partial music lyric buried somewhere in the previous newsletter. The prize was one stick of totally obsolete PC memory. Since Mr. Florian neglected to also answer the tiebreaker, “Who is Hoops McCann?” twice, he is not the winner. Frankly, I thought the tiebreaker was pretty easy, especially if you use my favorite search engine, Google. Perhaps you should try Dumbfind, and put in the names of various categories of popular entertainment until you find the two answers.
So, to claim the memory, Alert SNS Readers must first answer that tiebreaker and then also tell me where I can buy the LP featuring songs containing the lyrics “nauseous gasser” and “merry-go-round” for less than $69. It’s only going to get harder unless someone can emerge victorious. Of course, buying me the LP would make one an instant winner, regardless of previous right answers!
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Jane C. Ellsworth
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