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Archive for October, 2011

30
Oct

Google places misleading ads designed to steal Yelp’s traffic on its mobile search engine

The Monster of Mountain View continues to engage in anticompetitive behavior:

If you search for “Yelp” on Google from your mobile phone the top paid result, even above the organic result to Yelp.com, takes you to Zagat.  I am only seeing this on mobile searches. While it is a common practice for companies to advertise against their competitors’ names in search advertising, in this case it is Google itself which is bidding for that search term and taking the top spot.  A classy move.

TechCrunch has a screenshot of the ad. The link is titled “Yelp”, but it goes to Zagat, which was recently purchased by Google and is now a subsidiary.

Because AdWords ads appear above what are known as the “organic” search results (which is a misnomer, there’s no such thing as “organic” search results), the real Yelp will always appear below the fake Yelp link as long as Google continues running its ad for Zagat. And of course, Google can run its Zagat ad forever… because Google can give itself as much advertising space as it likes.

TechCrunch notes that Yelp could fight back by buying its own Google ad. But then it’s just forking over money to a competitor.

What Google is doing here is a perfect example of why it is a menacing monopoly, and should be boycotted.

27
Oct

Google’s support for Android sucks

Blogger Michael DeGusta has published an illuminating chart which shows just how bad Google is at pushing out updates to phones running its spyware-laden Android operating system. He writes:

I went back and found every Android phone shipped in the United States1 up through the middle of last year. I then tracked down every update that was released for each device – be it a major OS upgrade or a minor support patch – as well as prices and release & discontinuation dates. I compared these dates & versions to the currently shipping version of Android at the time. The resulting picture isn’t pretty.

From the chart, he extrapolated some devastating numbers:

  • 7 of the 18 Android phones never ran a current version of the OS.
  • 12 of 18 only ran a current version of the OS for a matter of weeks or less.
  • 10 of 18 were at least two major versions behind well within their two year contract period.
  • 11 of 18 stopped getting any support updates less than a year after release.
  • 13 of 18 stopped getting any support updates before they even stopped selling the device or very shortly thereafter.
  • 15 of 18 don’t run Gingerbread, which shipped in December 2010.
  • In a few weeks, when Ice Cream Sandwich comes out, every device on here will be another major version behind.
  • At least 16 of 18 will almost certainly never get Ice Cream Sandwich.

DeGusta goes on to discuss why Google is unable to match Apple in terms of support for users of older hardware. His piece is definitely worth reading.

23
Oct

Another high-profile YouTube account hacked

First it was the Sesame Street YouTube account. Now it’s Microsoft’s:

Microsoft’s official YouTube channel appears to have been taken over by someone not affiliated with the company, who has removed all of the videos and posted solicitations for sponsorships, apparently anticipating an influx of traffic as the news spreads.

I subscribe to the company’s YouTube updates and received notification this morning of two new uploads by the company, both of them rudimentary videos apparently soliciting advertisements for the channel. Since then a third video has been uploaded, along the same lines.

A YouTube account is, of course, a Google account – meaning that someone who signs up for YouTube isn’t just creating an identity on YouTube; they’re creating an identity that can be used with other Google offerings, such as Gmail, Blogger, Picasa, or Google Maps. The list goes on… and on… and on…

Who knows what else the hackers compromised that was in that Google account?

This is why it’s a bad idea to do business the Google way. Google’s account security sucks, as demonstrated by these recent break-ins.

When you trust one company to handle your emails, chat, videos, documents, pictures, credit card data, and other sensitive information, you’re asking for trouble. A lot of trouble.

20
Oct

City of Los Angeles demands partial refund from Google; LAPD says Google Apps not secure

The City of Los Angeles made a big mistake when it decided to do business with the Monster of Mountain View. Now the city is trying to get a partial refund from Google because some of its departments refuse to use Google’s insecure Apps offering:

Two years after the City of Los Angeles approved a $7.25 million deal to move its e-mail and productivity infrastructure to Google Apps, the migration has still not been completed because the Los Angeles Police Department and other agencies are unsatisfied with Google’s security related to the handling of criminal history data.

Los Angeles officials originally expected to roll Google Apps out to its 30,000 users by June 2010, in partnership with systems integration contractor CSC. But that number has been reduced to about 17,000 employees, largely because of security objections raised by the LAPD and other safety-related departments. Advocacy group Consumer Watchdog opposed the deal, and this week released a letter LA officials sent to CSC in August, which states “The City is in receipt of your letter dated May 13, 2011, wherein CSC indicates that it is unable to meet the security requirements of the City and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) for all data and information, pursuant to U.S. DOJ Criminal Justice Information Systems (CJIS) policy requirements.”

Google has a poor reputation when it comes to privacy and security. That’s because Google’s business model is built on collecting as much user data as possible and monetizing it. Google’s response to security problems has been to collect even more personal information; these days, Gmail users are asked to associate their mobile phone numbers with their Google accounts, all in the name of improved security.

Of course, if a person who uses only GoogleTech loses their Android phone, their email, contacts, web history, and so much more could all be compromised simultaneously. That’s the danger of trusting one company with your data.

16
Oct

Google kills off Buzz, several other products

Goodbye, Google Buzz. You won’t be missed:

According to a new post by Google VP of Product Bradley Horowitz, on the official company blog, Google is delivering the death blow to several more products and services, including its code search engine, Buzz, Jaiku, iGoogle features and the University Research Program for Google Search, the latter which provides API access to Google Search results for a small number of academic institutions.

This is hardly the first time Google has killed off products. It previously axed Google Wave and Blogger’s FTP publishing, for instance.

Of course, in the case of Buzz, Buzz is no longer necessary now that Google has its bigger and better Facebook clone, Google+.

The Monster of Mountain View’s latest moves are just more proof that it doesn’t pay to be a Google early adopter. Google has bought a great many promising startups, only to shut them down and assign the talent to work somewhere else in the Googleplex.

The lesson for startups? If Google comes knocking, slam the door in their face and tell them to go away. Yelp and Groupon both spurned Google takeover offers, and they were wise to do so.