Add Twitter to the growing list of critics of Googles practices of delivering search results.
As you may know by now, Google announced some new features for personalized search today. Im not going to run through all of that again. You can read the rundown here.
Interestingly, Twitter is speaking out against the new changes, which they seem to think will make Twitter content less accessible to users. Twitter General Counsel Alex Macgillivray, calls it a bad day for the Internet:
The company has been emailing around a statement, saying:
For years, people have relied on Google to deliver the most relevant results anytime they wanted to find something on the Internet.
Often, they want to know more about world events and breaking news. Twitter has emerged as a vital source of this real-time information, with more than 100 million users sending 250 million Tweets every day on virtually every topic. As weve seen time and time again, news breaks first on Twitter; as a result, Twitter accounts and Tweets are often the most relevant results.
Were concerned that as a result of Googles changes, finding this information will be much harder for everyone. We think thats bad for people, publishers, news organizations and Twitter users.
This is quite interesting. I dont recall anything in Googles announcement saying that it would no longer be including results from Twitter.
In fact, this mentality, to me, would have been more appropriate when Google and Twitter were unable to reach a deal to extend Googles use of the Twitter firehose for realtime search, which I totally agree is a bad thing.
Google used to show tweets rolling in, in real time (or at least close to it) when people searched for timely topics. That is in line with what Twitter is talking about here. It doesnt do that anymore, and that sucks, but I dont see why making Google+ content more accessible in Google results is making Twitter results less accessible than they were yesterday.
Perhaps Twitter knows something that the rest of us dont.
Granted, Google has said all along that it would look to use Google+ in the future to bring back realtime search.
Actually, Google Fellow Amit Singhal (who announced the changes) is quoted as saying:
Facebook and Twitter and other services, basically, their terms of service dont allow us to crawl them deeply and store things. Google+ is the only [network] that provides such a persistent service. Of course, going forward, if others were willing to change, wed look at designing things to see how it would work.
In other words, if Google was granted access to the Twitter and Facebook data it needs to put that content into the results, it would probably do so at least that appears to be Googles position on things.
Amazon has pissed off a lot of small businesses. Im not even going to get into all of the Internet tax stuff, but earlier this month, the company launched an app. The app is called Price Check, and it allows users to go into a store, scan a product, find it for a cheaper price through Amazon, and purchase it immediately. Oh, and Amazon gave users discounts of up to 5% when using the app on some items last weekend.
Brick and mortars were and continue to be furious, but Amazon maintains it actually helps small businesses.
What do you think? Does Amazon help or hurt small businesses? Share your thoughts in the comments.
The categories available within Price Check include: Books, Textbooks, Movies, Music, Video Games, CDs, Electronics, Home Garden, Automotive, Baby, Beauty, Camera Photo, Cell Phone Services, Clothing, Computers, Grocery, Health Personal Care, Home Improvement, Industrial Scientific, Jewelry, Kindle, Kitchen Dining, Magazines, Music Instruments, Office Products, Patio Garden, Shoes, Software, Sports Outdoors, Video, Watches.
User reviews in the Android Market are pretty positive. The average rating is 4.3 out of 5. At the time of this writing, it has 120 5-star reviews, 32 4-star reviews, 15 3-star reviews, 9 2-star reviews and 8 1-star reviews.
Heres a sampling of what people who have rated it 5 stars had to say:
A very simple and easy UI. Allows you to make quick comparisons, so you can make the best decisions when out shopping.
Love this. Love Amazon! What more is there to say, its Amazon.
Awesome app. Works great.
Will definitely find a better price.
Heres a sampling from the 1-star and 2-star reviews:
This doesnt benefit the user any more than any barcode scanner. All it does is turn users into tools of amazon researchers.
Everything it does, the original Amazon app does as well, including barcode camera search, and wishlist account management. Completely redundant.
I hate the limited interface. I am used to reading reviews and comparing similar products. This app feels like a small prison. The bar code scanner is waaaaaay too finicky, unlike other android scanner apps. Overall 2 stars rating from me.
Some other ones indicate there are bugs and crashes.
Again, however, the majority seem to be pretty pleased with it. And why not? Really, whats not to like from the user perspective? Especially in this economy. Consumers want to save a buck wherever they can.
But that doesnt mean small businesses are pleased. There has been outcry about this from businesses since it was introduced.
Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, recently spoke out about the app in favor of small business. She is quoted by Bloomberg BusinessWeek: Amazons promotion paying consumers to visit small businesses and leave empty-handed is an attack on Main Street businesses that employ workers in our communities. Small businesses are fighting everyday to compete with giant retailers, such as Amazon, and incentivizing consumers to spy on local shops is a bridge too far.
As previously reported, the Retail Industry Leaders Associations VP of public affairs, Katherine Lugar, said:
Retailers compete on price 365 days a year, and at no time is that competition hotter than during the make-or-break holiday shopping season. However, by continuing to evade collecting state sales taxes, Amazons exploitation of a pre-Internet tax loophole is resulting in a 6-10 percent perceived price advantage over their competitors on Main Street.
Amazons aggressive promotion of its Price Check App shows the lengths they are willing to go to exploit this tax loophole, and is a stark reminder of why Congress needs to act to protect retailers on Main Street. A failure to act is an implicit endorsement of a subsidy of Amazon, a subsidy that distorts the free market and puts jobs on Main Street at risk.
Main Street retailers have been forced to compete on an uneven playing field for too long. Retailers cannot afford another holiday season where they are forced to compete on an uneven playing field.
Obviously, Amazon doesnt think it deserves all of this harsh criticism. The New York Times shared a statement from Amazon spokeswoman Sally Fouts this week, who said the controversial app was primarily intended for customers who are comparing prices in major retail chain stores, and that Amazons third-party sellers, which she says includes more than two million individuals and businesses of all sizes that sell on Amazon benefit from the app as well.
The promotion in question may be old news at this point, but the app is still fresh, and has received a lot of attention. Clearly, based on the reviews above, users like it. Combine that with the brand power of Amazon, and one has to assume that this thing is going to be on a whole lot of smartphones, being used by a whole lot of consumers in a whole lot of stores.
Just because the that promotion is over, doesnt mean people wont be tempted to look for cheaper prices on Amazon. Of course they couldve been doing this already, but having an app specifically for this purpose makes it more convenient than ever. And its not as if Amazon cant launch similar promotions in the future.
Do you run a small business? What is your take on the app and Amazon in general? Share your thoughts.
In September Google released their new Google Wallet, an Android app designed to take advantage of the near-field communication technology that is present in an increasing number of Android-based smartphones. The app stores usernames, passwords, and credit card data in order to allow users to pay for transactions in physical stores by swiping their phones in front of NFC-enabled readers like those compatible with MasterCards PayPass service.
Last week, however, reports surfaced that Verizon would not be allowing Google Wallet on the Google Nexus phones it sells. The announcement created a storm of controversy, which Verizon tried to quell by releasing a vaguely worded statement citing nebulous security concerns. Speculation at the time was that Verizon was blocking the app in order to buy time for ISIS, an NFC payment system being launched as a joint venture of Verizon, ATT, and T-Mobile. It remains unclear whether ATT and T-Mobile, which are also due to get the Google Nexus, will allow the app on their devices.
Now, however, it looks as though the security concerns cited by Verizon whether they are the companys real reason for blocking Google Wallet or not may have some validity. Digital forensics and security company ViaForensics released the results of a study yesterday into the security of Google Wallet. The company conducted a detailed analysis of the data stored and sent by the app. The analysis found several grave security concerns in terms of the information the app stores. Although the app does encrypt credit card numbers, it stores a surprising amount of data in unsecured format. Credit card balances, expiration dates, credit limits, transaction history (including location) and more. It also stores the cardholders name, email address, and the last four digits of the card number. It also publishes a considerable amount of data to Google Analytics, in a way that the study found could be intercepted.
The study concludes that Google Wallet does a fair job of keeping certain information secure namely, credit card numbers. All the other data stored by the app, however, pretty much everything except the first 12 digits of your credit card, is stored unencrypted on the phone. The amount of data that is kept unencrypted is enough that an attacker is well armed for a social engineering attack.
The report concludes that further, more in-depth security analysis of the software is warranted. While the author expresses excitement about the potential of NFC technology, he also says that the amount of unencrypted data store[d] by Google Wallet surpasses what we believe most consumers find acceptable.
The holiday shopping season is in full swing, and this year, trends show that consumers are heading to social networks to shop. For the past several years, weve seen a growing shift to online shopping, so its not really surprising that social networks would be the next stop for gift ideas.
Are you utilizing social networks to gather gift ideas this holiday season? Let us know.
According to a GfK survey released in October, 39 percent of consumers plan to look to social networks before they make purchases. Laura OShaughnessy, the CEO of Facebook advertising agency SocialCode, told us that social networks played a large role last year but were expected to play an even bigger role in this years shopping season.
What we saw last year, and we expect even more of a bang this year, is that social networks are really just key to holiday shopping, she said.
As a result of this trend, marketers have another area in which to reach consumers. In order to leverage social networks, OShaughnessy told us that marketers should have a clear goal for social networks whether it be to introduce a new product, to purchase a product, or to increase brand awareness.
Secondly, she said marketers should be very specific in identifying their target audience. As she explained, social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn make it very easy to target particular groups.
Thirdly, OShaughnessy advises marketers to drive an action through their social media effort. Marketers should, however, make sure that they are taking advantage of the social power of the networks in order to encourage sharing.
If marketers can integrate a gaming aspect to their campaign, the results can be powerful in this way as well.
Once these elements are implemented, OShaughnessy said that marketers need to have tracking tools in place so that they are making the most of their marketing dollars.
Are you utilizing these opportunities this holiday season, marketers? Wed love to know.
Google is inviting social networks and platforms to integrate their activity streams with Google Analytics. These activity streams will be surfaced in a set of social reports that our team is building to help marketers better measure engagement and impact across social channels (coming next year), a Google spokesperson tells WebProNews.
In a post on the Google Analytics Blog, the company says:
Every day, millions of people share and engage with content online. But most sharing doesnt happen on the site where it was published, it happens throughout the social web. Marketers and publishers are looking for a comprehensive view of all interactions with their content on and off their site and so were working hard to make this happen.
To enable our customers to discover whos sharing, voting and bookmarking their content on the social web, cross-network measurement needs to become easier.
Google is letting any network add things like +1s, votes, comments, etc. into Google Analytics social reports, so that the info is available for Google Analytics users.
Google has set up a social data hub based on ActivityStreams and PubsubHubbub, and is already working with Delicious, Digg, Gigya, LiveFyre, ReadItLater, Reddit, TypePad, Vkontakte, Google+, Boogger and Google Groups.
I couldnt help but notice that Facebook and Twitter are not on that list.
Facebook has announced that it has begun rolling out the new timeline to users, starting with New Zealand. Prior to this announcement, the updated Facebook profile was only available to developers.
According to an updated post on the Facebook blog:
We announced Timeline in September and made it available to developers building apps on our platform. Since then, over a million people have signed up for the developer beta to access Timeline. The feedback weve received so far has been invaluable. Starting today, we are making Timeline more widely available as we measure speed and other types of performance. Well begin by making it available to people in New Zealand and then roll it out more broadly in the near future.
As you read there, Facebook will be rolling out the timeline in more areas soon, but there is no timetable at the moment.
For those of you who arent familiar with the Facebook timeline, here is the official description:
Timeline is wider than your old profile, and its a lot more visual. The first thing youll notice is the giant photo right at the top. This is your cover, and its completely up to you which of your photos you put here.
As you scroll down past your cover, youll see your posts, photos and life events as they happened in time. You choose whats featured on your timeline. You can star your favorites to double their size or hide things altogether.
Are you looking forward to having the timeline? Tell us your thoughts below.
Back in June Google began rolling out a new look and feel for Gmail, Search, News, Maps, Reader, and quite a few of their other products. Their goal was to create a unified look. Well today theyve introduced the next stage in the process redesigning the Google bar.
The new Google bar is supposed to help you navigate quicker through Google services, as well as giving you the capability to share stuff to Google+, while saving prceious browser space.
From the Google Blog: Instead of the horizontal black bar at the top of the page, youll now find links to your services in a new drop-down Google menu nested under the Google logo. Well show you a list of links and you can access additional services by hovering over the More link at the bottom of the list. Click on what you want, and youre off.
The dropdown menu does require a few clicks to get to some of the popular services, but is manageable with the present icons. Also, the new dropdown menu does seem to have more uniformity, especially when you consider Googles iPad app and Chromes tab page.
Some users arent a fan of the new bar:
Hey, Google, whilst your integrating a new Google bar you can take out the utterly pointless Google + stuff. Thanks.
While others welcome the redesigned bar:
http://t.co/5UVndyDf pleased to see Google stepping up its game.I like the new Google bar
new google bar is starting to look like a standalone OS.
What do you think of the new Google bar? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Black Friday online sales jumped over 26 percent this year, according to a report from comScore. Led by Amazon.com, online sales reached $816 million, making it the biggest spending day online so far in 2011.
Just to put it in perspective for you, last years online Black Friday sales only increased 9 percent from the previous year.
comScore data showed that fifty million Americans shopped online on Black Friday, an increase of 35 percent from 2010.
comScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni stated:
With brick-and-mortar retail also reporting strong gains on Black Friday, its clear that the heavy promotional activity had a positive impact on both channels.
The top five retail websites on Black Friday were Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Target and Apple.
Amazon.com once again led the pack, with 50 percent more visitors than any other retailer, while also showing the highest growth rate versus last year, said Fulgoni.
With Cyber Monday looming, Fulgoni predicted another record setting day, which is saying something. Sales from Cyber Monday last year topped $1 billion, which made it the largest online spending day ever, according to comScore.
Whats your prediction for Cyber Monday? Leave us a comment below with your guesstimate.
Todays infographic is all about shopping and moustaches. That includes Black Friday Cybermonday and Movember.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday hacks and scams:by NowSourcing
Shopping cart abandonment:
Sortable The Hairy Truth About The Moustache. Go to Movember.com and make a donation today.
Google: +Chris Crum
Privacy. Its on everyones minds these days. A couple of months ago it was Apple and Google that were drawing the ire of consumers with the storing of location data. And of course, Facebook is always mentioned when people discuss their concerns about online privacy. But as technology gets better, and the tools used to capture information and the databases used to store and disseminate the information become more capable, the lines between online and offline privacy continue to blur.
On that note, lets say that you are having a Sunday afternoon picnic with your child. The weathers good, youve been running around and playing but now its time for lunch. You open up the cooler, only to discover that youve left a couple of the sandwiches in the car. The cars just a few yards away, so you quickly run to grab the sandwiches.
And in a split second, you look back to see that your child is gone. You catch a black sedan speeding away and you are barely able to catch the license plate. Because you caught that license plate, police are able to search a giant database of plate captures and track the movements of the kidnapper.
A classic question: What is more important, public safety or personal freedom? What are you willing to sacrifice? Let us know in the comments.
Ok, I know this whole scenario seems a little bit Without A Trace or Lifetime movie-esque, but the point is that police were able to use an ever-expanding database of data culled from license plate snapshots in order to generate real-time location information. Thats a reality, and its happening in our nations capital, among other places.
The Washington Post is reporting that police in D.C. are beefing up the area covered by license plate cameras. More than 250 cameras in D.C. and its suburbs are constantly hard at work, grabbing license plate numbers and sticking them into databases. The police arent exactly doing this quietly, but its being done with virtually no public debate.
The highest concentration of these plate readers in the entire nation exists in D.C. (one reader per square mile), so that means that District police are building the biggest location database based on license plates in the whole country.
Lets take a brief look at these license plate readers.
First, these are apparently different types of cameras than the cameras cities have been affixing near stoplights and other places to catch people running red lights or speeding the heres a ticket 2 weeks later in the mail cameras.
These plate readers cost about $20,000 each and can snatch images of numbers and letters on cars traveling nearly 150 mph and across four lanes of traffic. These plate readers in D.C. take 1,800 images per minute, every one of which is stored in a database.
Basically, these plate readers have made it possible for police to track everyones movements as they move across the city.
These plate readers and the subsequent database of image captures has tipped the privacy concerns of some notably the American Civil Liberties Union. One of their main concerns is naturally the privacy implications.
In the District, laws are in place that limit the amount of time that surveillance camera footage can be kept. The images must be dumped after 10 days, unless there is an actual investigatory reason to keep them. But right now, there is nothing keeping data from the plate readers from being stored for years.
The ACLU says that this database is storing the location data of innocent people. And they are right. The plate readers are casting an all-inclusive net, grabbing license plate numbers indiscriminately.
Clearly this technology is rapidly approaching the point where it could be used to reconstruct the entire movements of any individual vehicle. As we have argued in the context of GPS tracking that level of intrusion on private life is something that the police should not be able to engage in without a warrant.
Lets think back to the slightly-stylized child abduction scene from the beginning of this article. Maybe that seems a bit far-fetched, but the reality of the situation is that the plate reader database has helped police. According to the D.C. police department, they make an arrest a day with the help of the plate readers. In a four month period this year, they also found 51 stolen cars.
And although our child abduction story above might seem unrealistic, the possibilities are there for the plate readers to help in truly significant ways. Police could track cars to and from murder scenes or use it to identify players in organized crime circles like sex trafficking by logging which cars travel between certain locations.
But the fact that the technology is beneficial or could be beneficial in terms of law enforcement does not assuage concerns of a surveillance society becoming the norm in the U.S. Its a classic argument that pits personal liberties against security and safety. Just how much of your freedom are you able to give up to feel safer? This is a crucial debate that weve seen play out most recently after 9/11 with the Patriot Act.
The ACLU channels Minority Report to discuss preemptive law enforcement:
Of course, if the police track all of us all the time, there is no doubt that will help to solve some crimes just as it would no doubt help solve some crimes if they could read everybodys e-mail and install cameras in everybodys homes. But in a free society, we dont let the police watch over us just because we might do something wrong. That is not the balance struck by our Constitution and is not the balance we should strike in our policymaking.
Obviously, the plate readers are a valuable tool for the police, and there are an abundance of situations where one could imagine the searchable database of plate captures to be extremely useful. But are those plate readers building up a database thats just a little too full of innocent peoples location information for your liking?
If this kind of thing is to proliferate (both in D.C. and across the country), it is argued that it needs to see the light of day. Basically, society should have time to debate its merits and discuss their concerns. The police should not be able to run out and buy a new technology and put it in place before anybody realizes whats going on, says Jay Stanley of the ACLUs Privacy and Technology Program.
What do you think about the expansion of the plate reader technology? Do the benefits outweigh the privacy and personal freedom concerns? Or is this an example of big brother yielding too much power with the ability to catalog this data without warrants? Let us know in the comments.