kottke.org posts about Google

Google's open-sourced iconsOct 20 2014

Google MD icons

As part of their Material Design visual language, Google has open-sourced a package of 750 icons. More info here.

Something only Apple can doJun 16 2014

An instant classic John Gruber post about the sort of company Apple is right now and how it compares in that regard to its four main competitors: Google, Samsung, Microsoft, and Amazon. The post is also about how Apple is now firmly a Tim Cook joint, and the company is better for it.

When Cook succeeded Jobs, the question we all asked was more or less binary: Would Apple decline without Steve Jobs? What seems to have gone largely unconsidered is whether Apple would thrive with Cook at the helm, achieving things the company wasn't able to do under the leadership of the autocratic and mercurial Jobs.

Jobs was a great CEO for leading Apple to become big. But Cook is a great CEO for leading Apple now that it is big, to allow the company to take advantage of its size and success. Matt Drance said it, and so will I: What we saw last week at WWDC 2014 would not have happened under Steve Jobs.

This is not to say Apple is better off without Steve Jobs. But I do think it's becoming clear that the company, today, might be better off with Tim Cook as CEO. If Jobs were still with us, his ideal role today might be that of an eminence grise, muse and partner to Jony Ive in the design of new products, and of course public presenter extraordinaire. Chairman of the board, with Cook as CEO, running the company much as he actually is today.

This bit on the commoditization of hardware, and Apple's spectacularly successful fight against it, got me thinking about current events. Here's Gruber again:

Apple's device-centric approach provides them with control. There's a long-standing and perhaps everlasting belief in the computer industry that hardware is destined for commoditization. At their cores, Microsoft and Google were founded on that belief - and they succeeded handsomely. Microsoft's Windows empire was built atop commodity PC hardware. Google's search empire was built atop web browsers running on any and all computers. (Google also made a huge bet on commodity hardware for their incredible back-end infrastructure. Google's infrastructure is both massive and massively redundant - thousands and thousands of cheap hardware servers running custom software designed such that failure of individual machines is completely expected.)

This is probably the central axiom of the Church of Market Share - if hardware is destined for commoditization, then the only thing that matters is maximizing the share of devices running your OS (Microsoft) or using your online services (Google).

The entirety of Apple's post-NeXT reunification success has been in defiance of that belief - that commoditization is inevitable, but won't necessarily consume the entire market. It started with the iMac, and the notion that the design of computer hardware mattered. It carried through to the iPod, which faced predictions of imminent decline in the face of commodity music players all the way until it was cannibalized by the iPhone.

And here's David Galbraith tweeting about the seemingly unrelated training that London taxi drivers receive, a comment no doubt spurred by the European taxi strikes last week, protesting Uber's move into Europe:

Didn't realize London taxi drivers still have to spend years learning routes. That's just asking to be disrupted http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxicabs_of_the_United_Kingdom#The_Knowledge

Here's the relevant bit from Wikipedia about The Knowledge:

It is the world's most demanding training course for taxicab drivers, and applicants will usually need at least twelve 'appearances' (attempts at the final test), after preparation averaging 34 months, to pass the examination.

Uber, in this scenario, is attempting to be Microsoft in the 1980s and early 90s. They're implementing their software layer (the Uber service) on commodity hardware, which includes not only iPhones & Android phones, mass-produced cars of any type, and GPS systems but also, and crucially, the drivers themselves. Uber is betting that a bunch of off-the-shelf hardware, "ordinary" drivers, and their self-service easy-pay dispatch system will provide similar (or even better) results than a fleet of taxi drivers each with three years of training and years of experience. It is unclear to me what the taxi drivers can do in this situation to emulate the Apple of 1997 in making that commoditization irrelevant to their business prospects. Although when it comes to London in particular, Uber may have miscalculated: in a recent comparison at rush hour, an Uber cab took almost three times as long and was 64% more expensive than a black cab.

Google Maps' impressive attention to detailMay 23 2014

If you look at the Washington Monument in Google Maps, the monument's shadow follows the motion of the Sun throughout the day.

Google Maps

The utility of this feature is unclear, but that is some impressive attention to detail. (via @sippey, @kennethn, @chrisfahey)

The slow-motion political race to build tiny stars on EarthMar 04 2014

Raffi Khatchadourian's long piece on the construction of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) is at once fascinating (for science reasons) and depressing (for political/bureaucratic reasons). Fusion reactors hold incredible promise:

But if it is truly possible to bottle up a star, and to do so economically, the technology could solve the world's energy problems for the next thirty million years, and help save the planet from environmental catastrophe. Hydrogen, a primordial element, is the most abundant atom in the universe, a potential fuel that poses little risk of scarcity. Eventually, physicists hope, commercial reactors modelled on iter will be built, too-generating terawatts of power with no carbon, virtually no pollution, and scant radioactive waste. The reactor would run on no more than seawater and lithium. It would never melt down. It would realize a yearning, as old as the story of Prometheus, to bring the light of the heavens to Earth, and bend it to humanity's will. iter, in Latin, means "the way."

But ITER is a collaborative effort between 35 different countries, which means the project is political, slow, and expensive.

For the machine's creators, this process-sparking and controlling a self-sustaining synthetic star-will be the culmination of decades of preparation, billions of dollars' worth of investment, and immeasurable ingenuity, misdirection, recalibration, infighting, heartache, and ridicule. Few engineering feats can compare, in scale, in technical complexity, in ambition or hubris. Even the iter organization, a makeshift scientific United Nations, assembled eight years ago to construct the machine, is unprecedented. Thirty-five countries, representing more than half the world's population, are invested in the project, which is so complex to finance that it requires its own currency: the iter Unit of Account.

No one knows iter's true cost, which may be incalculable, but estimates have been rising steadily, and a conservative figure rests at twenty billion dollars -- a sum that makes iter the most expensive scientific instrument on Earth.

I wonder what the project would look like if, say, Google or Apple were to take the reins instead. In that context, it's only $20 billion to build a tiny Sun on the Earth. Facebook just paid $19 billion for WhatsApp, Apple has a whopping $158.8 billion in cash, and Google & Microsoft both have more than $50 billion in cash. Google in particular, which is making a self-driving car and has been buying up robots by the company-full recently, might want their own tiny star.

But back to reality, the circumstances of ITER's international construction consortium reminded me of the building of The Machine in Carl Sagan's Contact. In the book, the countries of the world work together to make a machine of unknown function from plans beamed to them from an alien intelligence, which results in the development of several new lucrative life-enhancing technologies and generally unites humanity. In Sagan's view, that's the power of science. Hopefully the ITER can work through its difficulties to achieve something similar.

On Google's self-driving carNov 26 2013

Burkhard Bilger got inside the secretive Google X lab and reports back on the search giant's effort to build a self-driving car.

The Google car has now driven more than half a million miles without causing an accident-about twice as far as the average American driver goes before crashing. Of course, the computer has always had a human driver to take over in tight spots. Left to its own devices, Thrun says, it could go only about fifty thousand miles on freeways without a major mistake. Google calls this the dog-food stage: not quite fit for human consumption. "The risk is too high," Thrun says. "You would never accept it." The car has trouble in the rain, for instance, when its lasers bounce off shiny surfaces. (The first drops call forth a small icon of a cloud onscreen and a voice warning that auto-drive will soon disengage.) It can't tell wet concrete from dry or fresh asphalt from firm. It can't hear a traffic cop's whistle or follow hand signals.

And yet, for each of its failings, the car has a corresponding strength. It never gets drowsy or distracted, never wonders who has the right-of-way. It knows every turn, tree, and streetlight ahead in precise, three-dimensional detail. Dolgov was riding through a wooded area one night when the car suddenly slowed to a crawl. "I was thinking, What the hell? It must be a bug," he told me. "Then we noticed the deer walking along the shoulder." The car, unlike its riders, could see in the dark. Within a year, Thrun added, it should be safe for a hundred thousand miles.

America's legal system will make it difficult for self-driving cars to be accepted here...while not a legal kerfuffle yet, see Tesla's current difficulties w/r/t fire risk in electric cars for a taste of what's to come with self-driving cars. Europe is more likely...someplace like Holland or Denmark. They take their public and personal transportation seriously over there.

Is Google's quantum computer even quantum?Nov 12 2013

Google and NASA recently bought a D-Wave quantum computer. But according to a piece by Sophie Bushwick published on the Physics Buzz Blog, there isn't scientific consensus on whether the computer is actually using quantum effects to calculate.

In theory, quantum computers can perform calculations far faster than their classical counterparts to solve incredibly complex problems. They do this by storing information in quantum bits, or qubits.

At any given moment, each of a classical computer's bits can only be in an "on" or an "off" state. They exist inside conventional electronic circuits, which follow the 19th-century rules of classical physics. A qubit, on the other hand, can be created with an electron, or inside a superconducting loop. Obeying the counterintuitive logic of quantum mechanics, a qubit can act as if it's "on" and "off" simultaneously. It can also become tightly linked to the state of its fellow qubits, a situation called entanglement. These are two of the unusual properties that enable quantum computers to test multiple solutions at the same time.

But in practice, a physical quantum computer is incredibly difficult to run. Entanglement is delicate, and very easily disrupted by outside influences. Add more qubits to increase the device's calculating power, and it becomes more difficult to maintain entanglement.

(via fine structure)

Google's new quantum computerOct 16 2013

Google's got themselves a quantum computer (they're sharing it with NASA) and they made a little video about it:

I'm sure that Hartmut is a smart guy and all, but he's got a promising career as an Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonator hanging out there if the whole Google thing doesn't work out.

The making of Digg ReaderJun 20 2013

Writing for Wired, Matt Homan Mat Honan on Betaworks' race to build a replacement for Google Reader in just 90 days. If you are interested in a 35,000-ft view on how Web-based software is built, read this.

McLaughlin saw a blog post in the Fall of 2012 speculating that Google Reader, choked of resources, was shutting down. He sent a teasing note to a friend at Google offering to "take it off their hands." To his surprise, he got a serious reply. Google, his friend replied, had concluded that it couldn't sell the name, user data, or code base (which would only run on their servers) and so there was nothing to actually buy.

The following February, McLaughlin, now full-time at Digg, bumped into this same pal at a TED conference. The friend warned him to act fast if he really did want to develop a Reader. "He said 'I'm not telling you anything, but we're not going to keep this thing around forever and maybe you want to have something ready by the end of the year."

But instead of year's end Google announced plans to shutter Google Reader on July 1. That same night, Digg put up a blog post announcing that it was going to build a replacement. The Internet went crazy.

Loved seeing ye olde kottke.org represented in the Digg Reader mockups, and I'm looking forward to checking out the service when it launches.

Mat Honan visits Google IslandMay 17 2013

After taking in a four-hour keynote at the Google I/O conference, Mat Honan is transported to a magical place called Google Island.

The soft, froggy voice startled me. I turned around to face an approaching figure. It was Larry Page, naked, save for a pair of eyeglasses.

"Welcome to Google Island. I hope my nudity doesn't bother you. We're completely committed to openness here. Search history. Health data. Your genetic blueprint. One way to express this is by removing clothes to foster experimentation. It's something I learned at Burning Man," he said. "Here, drink this. You're slightly dehydrated, and your blood sugar is low. This is a blend of water, electrolytes, and glucose."

I was taken aback. "How did you..." I began, but he was already answering me before I could finish my question.

"As soon as you hit Google's territorial waters, you came under our jurisdiction, our terms of service. Our laws-or lack thereof-apply here. By boarding our self-driving boat you granted us the right to all feedback you provide during your journey. This includes the chemical composition of your sweat. Remember when I said at I/O that maybe we should set aside some small part of the world where people could experiment freely and examine the effects? I wasn't speaking theoretically. This place exists. We built it."

I was thirsty, so I drank the electrolyte solution down. "This is delicious," I replied.

"I know," he replied. "It also has thousands of micro sensors which are now swarming through your blood stream."

"What... " I stammered.

"Your prostate is enlarged. Let's go hangout now. There's some really great music I'd like to recommend to you."

You could consider this a follow-up to 2004's EPIC 2014 by Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson.

Time lapse satellite images, 1984-2012May 10 2013

Working with the USGS, NASA, and Time, Google has built a viewer for satellite image time lapses. Among the images are those of the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, the retreat of an Alaskan glacier, and the growth of Dubai. You can also refocus the map on any other area you want. More info here and here's the extensive Time feature.

Google Street View hyperlapse videoApr 10 2013

The term of art for time lapse videos in which the camera moves is hyperlapse. In playing around with the hyperlapse technique, Teehan+Lax developed a system to make hyperlapse videos using Google Street View. Like this one:

Make your own here.

YouTube is the dominant force in musicApr 01 2013

This is a nice article about how memes are often made or promoted deliberately by financial interests and not because of a spontaneous popular uprising, but mostly I wanted to highlight this statement:

Google's YouTube, not Apple's iTunes, is now the dominant force in music.

I've been convinced for awhile now that YouTube and not Android or Google+ will be their main source of revenue if/when Google's search business wanes. (via @claytoncubitt)

RIP Google ReaderMar 18 2013

You may have heard by now that Google is shutting down Google Reader, their RSS reading service. It'll be gone by July 4. Fortunately you can export your subscriptions and use another service...here are some suggestions from Matt Haughey and Gizmodo. Or you can wait for Digg's reader.

If you want to forego RSS readers altogether but still want to keep up with kottke.org without having to visit the site regularly, try following kottke.org on Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr.

Seeing the world through Google-colored GlassesFeb 20 2013

Google is making a wearable headset called Google Glass and here's a look at how the heads-up display is going to work.

Maybe it's the jetlag talking, but that looks pretty fricking great. But I have a feeling that Glass is going to be a Segway for your face.

Bad flu season this yearJan 09 2013

According to Google's search tracking, this is the worst flu season in more than 6 years.

2013 Flu Trend

Google's trends tend to follow the official CDC data closely and indeed the CDC concurs about the scope of the flu this year but their data is lagging behind Google's by what looks like about 2 weeks. See also my post on how flu vaccines are made. (via @kellan)

How Google builds its mapsSep 07 2012

The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal gets an inside look at how Google builds its maps (and what that means for the future of everything). "If Google's mission is to organize all the world's information, the most important challenge -- far larger than indexing the web -- is to take the world's physical information and make it accessible and useful."

Google Earth Time MachineJul 30 2012

The Google Earth Time Machine blog uses Google's historical satellite maps to make now-and-then comparisons of interesting places around the world. Like the transformation of this Texas river bend into an oxbow lake over 60+ years:

Google Earth Time Machine 01Google Earth Time Machine 02

(via stellar)

Turn your Twitter stream into your friends' linkblogJul 23 2012

A few weeks ago, Twitter added an option to search the tweets of only the people you follow. This is useful for several different reasons (try searching for [recent pop culture key phrase] to see what I mean) but for those who use Twitter primarily to find cool links to read/watch, it's an unexpected gift. To view your Twitter stream filtered to include only tweets containing links, just do a search for "http". Simple but powerful.

ps. Who knows if they're interested in this or not, but by a) making their entire archive available to search and b) allowing people to limit their search to their friends + 1-2 degrees of separation, Twitter could significantly better the search experience offered by Google et al in maybe 25-30% of all search cases. This is what Google is attempting to do with Google+ but Twitter could beat them to the punch.

Update: The search above, while quick, is also dirty in that it will include non-link tweets like "My favorite protocol is HTTP". The official Twitter way to is to use "filter:links", which will avoid that problem.

You can also filter out the links from your Twitter stream by negating the http search (this no longer works...), but you'll have to wade through all the @replies.

Marissa Mayer is Yahoo's new CEOJul 16 2012

But can she turn the company around? This is a super interesting move.

Marissa Mayer, one of the top executives at Google, will be the next C.E.O. of Yahoo, making her one of the most prominent women in Silicon Valley and corporate America.

The appointment of Ms. Mayer, who was employee No. 20 at Google and was one of the few public faces of the company, is considered a surprising coup for Yahoo, which has struggled in recent years to attract top flight talent in its battle with competitors like Google and Facebook.

Video conferencing skydivers at Google I/O the best demo ever?Jun 27 2012

To demonstrate a pair of their products, Google arranged for a group of skydivers to jump out of a blimp and parachute onto the roof of the Moscone Center in San Francisco, the building in which the Google I/O was being held. The divers were each wearing a pair of Google Glass networking glasses and video chatting on a Google+ Hangout.

Here's what it looked like from the ground:

I think this is what Robin Sloan was referencing in his tweet earlier:

Watched #GoogleIO. This company is totally Doc Brown. In one corner, an automatic banana-peeler; in the other, A WORKING TIME MACHINE.

How to build an iPad competitorJun 20 2012

It's funny. Or sad. Or predictable. It's predictably sadly funny that many tech media outlets are saying that Apple's iPad finally has a bonafide competitor in the Microsoft Surface. Set aside for now that Surface does look genuinely interesting, that the price hasn't been set, and the thing isn't even out yet. For a piece of portable networking technology like a smartphone or tablet to be successful on the scale at which Apple operates, you need to have an ecosystem, a network of interacting devices, software, products, and services that work together...hardware + software is not enough. Apple, Google (and partners), Amazon, and possibly Microsoft are the only companies with the expertise and pockets deep enough to build their own ecosystems. Ok, maybe Facebook in a couple years or if Nokia can dig themselves out of their current hole, but that's really about it.

The current parts of the phone/tablet/media ecosystem are as follows:

1. A piece of hardware at a price that compares favorably to its quality and features. Apple sells premium hardware with great features at a premium-but-still-reasonable price. Google and their partners offer a range of devices at different prices corresponding to different levels of quality and features offered. Amazon offers low-price hardware with a relatively limited but appropriate set of features. Microsoft looks to have a nice piece of hardware with promising features but the price point is pending.

2. An OS that takes proper advantage of the hardware capabilities with features in line with the price of the device. Apple has iOS, with most of its devices running the same version. Google and their partners have many different versions of Android, most of which are not the most recent version. Amazon runs a customized Android OS for the Kindle Fire and a modified version of Linux for the non-Fire Kindles. Microsoft has Windows 8, which will eventually run, in different configurations, on lots of different kinds of hardware, from desktop computers to phones.

3. An app store stocked with the applications that smartphone and tablet owners want to use. Apple has the comprehensive App Store. Google, etc. have Google Play (née Android Market), Amazon's Appstore for Android, and other stores, on which you can get most of the most popular apps. Amazon has their Appstore for Android for the Kindle Fire. Microsoft has the Windows Phone Marketplace for the Windows Phone with a more limited selection than the other stores...it's unclear what their plans are for a Windows 8 app store.

4. A media store with books, movies, and TV shows. Apple has the iTunes store (as well as iBooks, Newstand, etc.). Android has Google Play. Amazon has the Kindle store and Amazon Instant Video. Will Microsoft offer a way to purchase media across their Windows 8 platform? Does Windows Media Player do this?

5. A digital media hub for managing media, apps, software updates, etc. This part is a bit more optional than the others since media management is moving to the device and the cloud, but still. Apple has iTunes. Android has a variety of possible desktop managers and management happens on the device or through the cloud? You manage the Kindle stuff through Amazon's site and on the device. Microsoft will probably go cloud/device-based at this point?

6. An integrated cloud solution for syncing apps, media, and documents across devices. Again, this isn't crucial but will likely become so over time. Apple has iCloud. Android has Google's suite of apps (Gmail, calendar, Google docs, Google Drive, etc.). Amazon uses Whispernet and is leveraging AWS in various ways (e.g. Cloud Drive). Will Microsoft leverage SkyDrive for their tablets and phones?

7. Sister devices. Apple has the iPhone, iPad, iPod touches, Apple TV, and their full line of OS X-powered computers. Android runs on phones and tablets, but can also run on an increasing number of other devices (Google TV, etc.). And maybe ChromeOS devices? Amazon doesn't really have an interacting network of devices. Microsoft will have phones, the Surface, billions of desktop computers running Windows 8, and, dare I even say it, the Xbox.

You don't need to have every single part of the ecosystem for it to thrive but the more the better. Again, Surface does look genuinely interesting (as do the Windows phones from Nokia), Windows 8 and the Metro interface look promising, and Microsoft has deep pockets but all the pieces aren't quite there yet for them. Microsoft's real opportunity here is the Xbox. If they can properly leverage and integrate the Xbox's growing status as a home media hub (Xbox Live), they can fill in a lot of the holes in their fledgling ecosystem, provide people with compelling devices & media experiences, and give Apple, Google, and Amazon a real run for their (and our) money.

The real Google GlassesApr 06 2012

Since Google released the video for their augmented reality glasses the other day, people have been busy making videos that show a more realistic (or cynical) portrayal of how the glasses might work. Here are a couple of the better ones. First a version of the glasses with Google ads:

And this one gives new meaning to the phrase "banner blindness":

While not specifically about Google Glasses, this concept video by Keiichi Matsuda is also worth a look:

I will also direct your attention to the second episode of Black Mirror, a UK drama series by Charlie Brooker.

A satire on entertainment shows and our insatiable thirst for distraction set in a sarcastic version of a future reality. In this world, everyone must cycle on exercise bikes, arranged in cells, in order to power their surroundings and generate currency for themselves called Merits. Everyone is dressed in a grey tracksuit and has a "doppel", a virtual avatar inspired by Miis and Xbox 360 Avatars that people can customise with clothes, for a fee of merits. Everyday activities are constantly interrupted by advertisements that cannot be skipped or ignored without financial penalty.

(via jake & stellar)

Google GlassesApr 04 2012

Google has shared a bit about their augmented reality glasses project (more at the NY Times).

A video released by Google on Wednesday, which can be seen below, showed potential uses for Project Glass. A man wanders around the streets of New York City, communicating with friends, seeing maps and information, and snapping pictures. It concludes with him video-chatting with a girlfriend as the sun sets over the city. All of this is seen through the augmented-reality glasses.

The glasses look a little strange, like Geordi La Forge's visor...they might go over a little better if they looked more Warby Parkerish.

Ex-employees of Google, Goldman Sachs, and Yahoo have their sayMar 14 2012

There seems to be something in the air. Within the last day or so, three ex-employees have written about why their feelings have changed about three formerly beloved companies. James Whittaker recently left Google:

The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus. [...] Suddenly, 20% meant half-assed. Google Labs was shut down. App Engine fees were raised. APIs that had been free for years were deprecated or provided for a fee. As the trappings of entrepreneurship were dismantled, derisive talk of the "old Google" and its feeble attempts at competing with Facebook surfaced to justify a "new Google" that promised "more wood behind fewer arrows."

The days of old Google hiring smart people and empowering them to invent the future was gone. The new Google knew beyond doubt what the future should look like. Employees had gotten it wrong and corporate intervention would set it right again.

The whole thing is worth a read, what with damning phrases like "social isn't a product, social is people and the people are on Facebook" sprinkled liberally about.

In the NY Times this morning, Greg Smith writes that it's his last day at Goldman Sachs after almost 12 years at the firm.

To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world's largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.

It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs's success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients' trust for 143 years. It wasn't just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.

There's that saying: "If you're not paying for something, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold." Google's product has always been the people using their products and it sounds like Goldman has made a sizable shift in that direction.

Andy Baio hasn't worked for Yahoo for several years, but after the company announced they were filing a patent-infringement lawsuit against Facebook, Baio wrote of his displeasure about the move at Wired.

Yahoo's lawsuit against Facebook is an insult to the talented engineers who filed patents with the understanding they wouldn't be used for evil. Betraying that trust won't be forgotten, but I doubt it matters anymore. Nobody I know wants to work for a company like that.

I'm embarrassed by the patents I filed, but I've learned from my mistake. I'll never file a software patent again, and I urge you to do the same.

For years, Yahoo was mostly harmless. Management foibles and executive shuffles only hurt shareholders and employee morale. But in the last few years, the company's incompetence has begun to hurt the rest of us. First, with the wholesale destruction of internet history, and now by attacking younger, smarter companies.

Yahoo tried and failed, over and over again, to build a social network that people would love and use. Unable to innovate, Yahoo is falling back to the last resort of a desperate, dying company: litigation as a business model.

Yahoo seems to be in a different stage in its lifecycle than Google or Goldman. In the mid-to-late 2000s, they tried what Google is trying now and failed and now, as Baio notes, they are trying everything they can to survive, like the T-1000 writhing in the molten steel at the end of Terminator 2. Perhaps a harbinger of things to come for Google and Goldman?

Google Image Search recursionJan 13 2012

This is mesmerizing: using Google Image Search and starting with a transparent image, this video cycles through each subsequent related image, over 2900 in all.

(via ★mattb)

Google Street View first-person shooterDec 12 2011

There's no gameplay asside from firing the gun and moving around, but it's still disturbing to walk around within Google Street View with an assault rifle. (thx, job)

Do a barrel rollNov 03 2011

The most fun on the internet right now: go to Google and search for "do a barrel roll" (no quotes). Whee!

Where's your platform?Oct 13 2011

A very raw and passionate post by former Amazon employee and current Google employee Steve Yegge in which he praises a key decision made by Amazon several years ago to build a platform...and argues that a major problem for Google going forward is a lack of a platform of their own. It starts off:

I was at Amazon for about six and a half years, and now I've been at Google for that long. One thing that struck me immediately about the two companies -- an impression that has been reinforced almost daily -- is that Amazon does everything wrong, and Google does everything right. Sure, it's a sweeping generalization, but a surprisingly accurate one. It's pretty crazy. There are probably a hundred or even two hundred different ways you can compare the two companies, and Google is superior in all but three of them, if I recall correctly. I actually did a spreadsheet at one point but Legal wouldn't let me show it to anyone, even though recruiting loved it.

I mean, just to give you a very brief taste: Amazon's recruiting process is fundamentally flawed by having teams hire for themselves, so their hiring bar is incredibly inconsistent across teams, despite various efforts they've made to level it out. And their operations are a mess; they don't really have SREs and they make engineers pretty much do everything, which leaves almost no time for coding - though again this varies by group, so it's luck of the draw. They don't give a single shit about charity or helping the needy or community contributions or anything like that. Never comes up there, except maybe to laugh about it. Their facilities are dirt-smeared cube farms without a dime spent on decor or common meeting areas. Their pay and benefits suck, although much less so lately due to local competition from Google and Facebook. But they don't have any of our perks or extras -- they just try to match the offer-letter numbers, and that's the end of it. Their code base is a disaster, with no engineering standards whatsoever except what individual teams choose to put in place.

Why is Sergey Brin so good at Angry Birds?Sep 30 2011

I spent perhaps too much time this morning pondering one of the mysteries of the internet: Sergey Brin's astronomically high scores on the Google+ version of Angry Birds. For instance, Brin's high score on the easiest level of the game is 36240. It's a legit score (here's a higher one) and he has impressive scores on several other levels. But in 15 minutes of playing this morning, I couldn't get within a thousand points of his score. (Hey, at least I beat Kevin Rose.)

Google+ Angry Birds

So does Brin actually spend time obsessively playing Angry Birds to get those high scores (instead of, say, running Google or his other ventures) or has he written a program of some sort to produce near-optimal scores or does he have a fleet of interns playing as him for hours on end? We need to know this vital info...if you're interviewing Sergey at an upcoming conference, please ask him about this!

Happy birthday, big GOOGSep 27 2011

Google is thirteen today...back in 1998 when the site was still hosted at http://google.stanford.edu, Keith Dawson gave the search engine its first online coverage in English on the fondly remembered Tasty Bits From the Technology Front.

This site, one of the few rigorous academic research projects on Web searching, presents a demonstration database -- only 25M documents -- that already blows past most of the existing search engines in returning relevant nuggets. Google employs a concept of Page Rank derived from academic citation literature. Page Rank equates roughly to a page's importance on the Web: the more inbound links a page has, and the higher the importance of the pages linking to it, the higher its Page Rank.

Searching Vonnegut's story shapesSep 02 2011

Austin Kleon explicitly tied the last two posts together and fed Kurt Vonnegut's story shape graphs into Google Correlate's search by drawing feature. This is SO GOOD.

Vonnegut correlate

Google's search by drawing featureSep 02 2011

This is kind of amazing...you draw a graph and Google Correlate finds query terms whose popularity matches the drawn curve. I drew a bell curve, a very rough one peaking in 2007, and it matches a bunch of searches for "myspace".

Google Correlate

This fits beautifully with the previous post about Vonnegut's story shape graphs.

The recipe for Elvis' favorite fried chickenAug 02 2011

Charlie Ayers, former executive chef for Google, once worked alongside a former cook for Elvis Presley and that cook gave him his special recipe for fried chicken. Ayers says it's "the best southern fried chicken I [have] ever tasted". The recipe uses Google-sized portions...here's a recipe converter to scale it down.

RorschmapJul 29 2011

Rorschmap is a trippy Google Maps mashup by James Bridle that provides kaleidoscopic views of locations from around the world. Here's Paris, complete with MegaSeine.

Google's unusual job interview questionJul 18 2011

I feel like I've heard this before, but in the early days of Google, Sergey Brin ended his job interviews in an unusual manner.

Finally, he leaned forward and fired his best shot, what he came to call "the hard question."

"I'm going to give you five minutes," he told me. "When I come back, I want you to explain to me something complicated that I don't already know." He then rolled out of the room toward the snack area. I looked at Cindy. "He's very curious about everything," she told me. "You can talk about a hobby, something technical, whatever you want. Just make sure it's something you really understand well."

I wonder if Mark Zuckerberg asks similar sorts of questions on his walks in the woods.

Offshore energyMay 02 2011

There's a serious proposal to build an undersea electrical grid as part of the infrastructure for future offshore wind turbines. David Roberts writes about its importance:

Offshore wind power has significant advantages over the onshore variety. Uninterrupted by changes in terrain, the wind at sea blows steadier and stronger. Installing turbines far enough from shore that they're invisible except on the very clearest days lessens the possibility of not-in-my-backyard resistance. The challenge is getting the electricity back to land, to the people who will use it...

The Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) would provide multiple transmission hubs for future wind farms, making the waters off the mid-Atlantic coast an attractive and economical place for developers to set up turbines. The AWC's lines could transmit as much as six gigawatts of low-carbon power from turbines back to the coast--the equivalent capacity of 10 average coal-fired power plants.

There's a particular stretch of seabed, a flat shelf between the north Jersey and southern Virginia, that's geologically and geographically perfect for this. That's where they're setting up shop. Power-hungry Google is helping foot the bill.

(via Grist.)

Google Video, RIPApr 18 2011

On April 29th, Google is shutting down playback at Google Video. Instead of transitioning everything over to YouTube (which would seemingly make a lot of sense), they're just shutting it down with two weeks notice. If you're comfortable with the command line (can't they make this easier?), you can help archive.org save some of the best of Google Video. (via waxy)

Find people in JapanMar 11 2011

Google has built a quick little app for people trying to locate friends and family in Japan. There are two options: 1) "I'm looking for someone" and 2) "I have information about someone".

A Google with a viewMar 01 2011

You've likely already seen this, but 9-eyes is a better-than-usual collection of images taken from Google Street View.

Google Street View

Spy magazine on Google BooksFeb 17 2011

Google has put every issue of the influential Spy magazine up on Google Books to read for free. (via kbandersen)

Why is Schmidt stepping down at Google?Jan 21 2011

Over at the New Yorker, Ken Auletta has some insight into why Eric Schmidt is stepping down as Google's CEO.

Schmidt, according to associates, lost some energy and focus after losing the China decision. At the same time, Google was becoming defensive. All of their social-network efforts had faltered. Facebook had replaced them as the hot tech company, the place vital engineers wanted to work. Complaints about Google bureaucracy intensified. Governments around the world were lobbing grenades at Google over privacy, copyright, and size issues. The "don't be evil" brand was getting tarnished, and the founders were restive. Schmidt started to think of departing. Nudged by a board-member friend and an outside advisor that he had to re-energize himself, he decided after Labor Day that he could reboot.

He couldn't. By the end of the year, he was ready to jump on his own.

Why can't all "tech" journalism be like this? A single article on the topic, three paragraphs, all fact, properly sourced, no opinion, little speculation, no quotes from useless analysts. Reading something this spare and straightforward makes you realize how shitty TC, Mashable, SAI, and rest are.

Google's new CEOJan 20 2011

Eric Schmidt is stepping down as CEO (he'll remain the Executive Chairman) and Larry Page will become the new CEO in April.

Larry will now lead product development and technology strategy, his greatest strengths, and starting from April 4 he will take charge of our day-to-day operations as Google's Chief Executive Officer. In this new role I know he will merge Google's technology and business vision brilliantly. I am enormously proud of my last decade as CEO, and I am certain that the next 10 years under Larry will be even better! Larry, in my clear opinion, is ready to lead.

Sergey has decided to devote his time and energy to strategic projects, in particular working on new products. His title will be Co-Founder. He's an innovator and entrepreneur to the core, and this role suits him perfectly.

As Executive Chairman, I will focus wherever I can add the greatest value: externally, on the deals, partnerships, customers and broader business relationships, government outreach and technology thought leadership that are increasingly important given Google's global reach; and internally as an advisor to Larry and Sergey.

Autocomplete map of the United StatesDec 08 2010

Dorothy Gambrell looked up all of the state names on Google and made a map of what the autocomplete suggestions were. Here's part of it:

Autocomplete map

Lots of sports and schools.

Threaten customers for SEO? Go directly to jail.Dec 07 2010

The dickwad who threatened his customers as an SEO tactic (detailed here in the NY Times) was arrested on Monday by federal agents.

The merchant, Vitaly Borker, 34, who operates a Web site called decormyeyes.com, was charged with one count each of mail fraud, wire fraud, making interstate threats and cyberstalking. The mail fraud and wire fraud charges each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The stalking and interstate threats charges carry a maximum sentence of five years.

He was arrested early Monday by agents of the United States Postal Inspection Service. In an arraignment in the late afternoon in United States District Court in Lower Manhattan, Judge Michael H. Dolinger denied Mr. Borker's request for bail, stating that the defendant was either "verging on psychotic" or had "an explosive personality." Mr. Borker will be detained until a preliminary hearing, scheduled for Dec. 20.

Google BeatboxNov 30 2010

The latest big thing from Google: beatboxing. Just go to this page on Google Translate and press "Listen". I laughed out loud. (via prosthetic knowledge)

Hard-Coding Bias in Google "Algorithmic" Search ResultsNov 17 2010

Have you noticed that when you search Google for the answer to a mathematical calculation, the only result it lists is Google's own? I mean, just look at this obvious result tampering:

Google Bias

This "hard-coding" of calculation answers as the top search result goes against the company's supposed policy promising completely algorithmic and unbiased results. How are other mathematical calculation sites supposed to compete against the Mountain View search and math giant? What if 45 times 12 isn't actually 540? (I checked the calculation on Wolfram Alpha several times and on my iPhone calcuator and 540 appears to be correct. For now.)

And this isn't even Google's most egregious transgression. As Eric Meyer points out, Google is blocking private correspondence between private parties. That means that grandmothers aren't getting necessary information about erectile disfunction, people aren't finding out where they can play Texas Hold 'Em online, and the queries of Nigerian foreign ministers are going unanswered. There are millions of dollars sitting in a bank somewhere and all they need is a loan to get it out! Google! This. Is. Un. Acce. Ptable!

P.S. I think this "research" is obvious and the conclusions are misleading and biased. But then I don't have Ph.D. from Harvard, so what do I know?

The world is full of interesting thingsOct 12 2010

Ok, so this should keep you busy for the next 24 hours: a slideshow created by Google of "interesting things" on the "creative internet". You may have seen some of this before, but there's lots of good stuff in there.

Facebook soon bigger than Google?Oct 05 2010

In a piece at the normally unlinkable TechCrunch, Adam Rifkin argues that Facebook could be bigger than Google (revenue-wise) in five years. Rifkin makes a compelling argument.

Facebook Advertising does not directly compete with the text advertisements of Google's AdWords and AdSense. Instead Facebook is siphoning from Madison Avenue TV ad spend dollars. Television advertising represented $60 billion in 2009, or roughly one out of every two dollars spent on advertising in the U.S.; the main challenge marketers have with the Internet till recently has been that there aren't too many places where they can reach almost everybody with one single ad spend. Facebook fixes that problem.

Google lateris nescisOct 01 2010

Google Translate now does Latin. (Did I save Latin?) Let's see what it does with lorem ipsum:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Integer ultricies mi nec elit pretium porta. Ut pellentesque mollis magna et molestie. In elementum nulla vel augue tempor non ultrices mauris semper. Vestibulum nulla augue, volutpat at bibendum id, interdum ut ante. Pellentesque vestibulum erat suscipit nisl placerat pharetra. Maecenas a metus eros, non feugiat metus. Phasellus fermentum felis eu leo sagittis pellentesque. Mauris quis felis eu nibh bibendum dignissim vel et tortor. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Quisque a ante eget erat accumsan volutpat. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Nunc pretium iaculis diam, non ullamcorper urna viverra quis. Mauris egestas lorem eu magna tempus egestas. Sed ac lorem ac quam lacinia rutrum sed a metus. Ut diam sem, elementum rutrum dapibus ut, dictum nec turpis. Fusce tempor, arcu quis bibendum porta, massa leo scelerisque eros, nec convallis lacus lorem in nunc. Vestibulum fringilla dictum scelerisque. Donec eget elit ac magna placerat suscipit. Morbi tempor nisl eu est ultrices vehicula.

translates to:

Hello world! Is here to cancel meals. Fresh troops the avenging can take the price of the gate elit. That beating you soften large and less trouble. In the fireball there is no element of time will not be avenging Moors, always. Product Sample no, the volutpat But to drink in that, at times as before. Show your little was Nisl undertakes to please a quiver. Maecenas from the fear of eros, which does not fear feugiat. Phasellus to leaven good lion Felis arrows beating. Smartphone EU nibh dignissim or to drink in your family is. Hello world! Is here to cancel meals. Each one a was before eget accumsan Community. Beating, inhabit the sad old age and disease, spanned, and the advising hunger and the ugly need. Darts now the price of the goddess, the urn is not ullamcorper viverra any man. We want the Moors EU poverty for a long time. But, and flowers and attendants deal with than fear, but of the Rutrum. That prefix meaning half in diameter, the element of Rutrum Welcome to that, it was said, nor what is discreditable. We time, by the bow any man to drink in the gate, the mass crime eros a lion, nor the valley lakes Testing "is now. Entrance, the frangible crime has been said. Until can develop it to please and so great to raise up. Please note that Joomla disease is avenging carriages.

Why metadata REALLY matters for the future of e-booksAug 09 2010

Okay, I'll chase ONE new story today. But it's about this fundamental problem of converting old media objects into new ones, and I get to dig up some old blog posts too, I feel like I'm still in character.

Google Books claims to have counted all the books in the world: "129,864,880 of them. At least until Sunday." But as Ars Technica points out, that number is dubiously wiki:

Google's counting method relies entirely on its enormous metadata collection--almost one billion records--which it winnows down by throwing out duplicates and non-book items like CDs. The result is a book count that's arrived at by a kind of process of elimination. It's not so much that Google starts with a fixed definition of "book" and then combs its records to identify objects with those characteristics; rather, the GBS algorithm seeks to identify everything that is clearly not a book, and to reject all those entries. It also looks for collections of records that all identify the same edition of the same book, but that are, for whatever reason (often a data entry error), listed differently in the different metadata collections that Google subscribes to.

But the problem with Google's count, as is clear from the GBS count post itself, is that GBS's metadata collection is a riddled with errors of every sort. Or, as linguist and GBS critic Geoff Nunberg put it last year in a blog post, Google's metadata is "train wreck: a mish-mash wrapped in a muddle wrapped in a mess."

It's not just Google that has a problem. I wrote a post for Wired.com last week ("Why Metadata Matters for the Future of E-books") about how increased reliance on metadata was affecting publishers of new books, who also depend heavily on digital search -- and generally how bibliographic and legal arcana around e-books affects what we see and how we come to see it more than you'd think.

But I wish I'd added Google's woeful records to the piece. It's not like I didn't know about it; here's the title of a post I wrote a year ago, also citing Nunberg's post when it first appeared at Language Log: "Scholars to Google: Your Metadata Sucks".

Google kills WaveAug 04 2010

In an announcement on the Google Blog, Urs Hoelzle eulogizes Google Wave. The site will be live through the end of the year, and Google is going to try to move the technology to other projects. Personally, I tried to use Google Wave a couple times, but was never really able to get used to it. It was hard!

But despite these wins, and numerous loyal fans, Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked. We don't plan to continue developing Wave as a standalone product, but we will maintain the site at least through the end of the year and extend the technology for use in other Google projects. The central parts of the code, as well as the protocols that have driven many of Wave's innovations, like drag-and-drop and character-by-character live typing, are already available as open source, so customers and partners can continue the innovation we began. In addition, we will work on tools so that users can easily "liberate" their content from Wave.

This was going to be a separate post, but what the hey. For those of you concerned or curious about the amount of data Google's getting on you, Jamie Wilkinson has put together a Firefox add-on that will alert you audibly and visually whenever your information is being sent to Google.

(Thanks, Greg)

Google's anti-social softwareJul 13 2010

Bang on essay by Adam Rifkin about the differences in approach and culture between Google (Orkut, Wave, Buzz) and other recent social successes (Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook). Lots of good stuff here:

Google apps are for working and getting things done; social apps are for interacting and having fun.

Social apps offer a steady diet of junk food to keep us addicted; Google apps offer mostly bamboo.

Social apps are whimsical and fun; Google apps are whittled and functional.

(via sippey)

You're either repetitive, bored, or urgentJun 18 2010

Google breaks down mobile device users into three categories: repetitive now, bored now, and urgent now.

The "repetitive now" user is someone checking for the same piece of information over and over again, like checking the same stock quotes or weather. Google uses cookies to help cater to mobile users who check and recheck the same data points.

The "bored now" are users who have time on their hands. People on trains or waiting in airports or sitting in cafes. Mobile users in this behavior group look a lot more like casual Web surfers, but mobile phones don't offer the robust user input of a desktop, so the applications have to be tailored.

The "urgent now" is a request to find something specific fast, like the location of a bakery or directions to the airport. Since a lot of these questions are location-aware, Google tries to build location into the mobile versions of these queries.

This works for general web users as well. Blogs do well when they appeal to repetitive now and bored now users, but the really effective ones target all three types at once. Somehow this is related to stock and flow.

How to save the news businessMay 26 2010

There's lots of good stuff in this long James Fallows article about Google's now-intense interest in the health of journalism. In short, Google feels obligated from a business perspective to help serious news organizations put good information online so that people can find it through Google.

There really is no single cause," I was told by Josh Cohen, a former Web-news manager for Reuters who now directs Google's dealings with publishers and broadcasters, at his office in New York. "Rather, you could pick any single cause, and that on its own would be enough to explain the problems-except it's not on its own." The most obvious cause is that classified advertising, traditionally 30 to 40 percent of a newspaper's total revenue, is disappearing in a rush to online sites. "There are a lot of people in the business who think that in the not-too-distant future, the classified share of a paper's revenue will go to zero," Cohen said. "Stop right there. In any business, if you lose a third of your revenue, you're going to be in serious trouble."

Playable version of Pac Man on Google.comMay 21 2010

Please go to Google.com. The Pac Man homage logo is a playable version of Pac Man. PLAYABLE! Hitting "Insert Coin" lets you play...another game. Holy crap. I think this is why they made the internet.

tumblr_l2rzfsLG171qzniqdo1_500

(via Agent M Loves Tacos)

Update:
Google has made their Pac Man game permanent. (Thanks, APIK)

MSFT vs AAPLApr 26 2010

After posting the Apple stock purchase vs. Apple product purchase thing this afternoon, I thought, hey, Microsoft's stock went up a bunch after Windows 95 came out so I'll figure out how much the software's purchase price would be worth in Microsoft stock today. The answer was not very exciting as you can see from this graph courtesy of Google Finance:

MSFT vs AAPL

Since the Windows 95 launch, Microsoft's stock has only (only!) quadrupled in value while Apple's stock has increased by more than 24 times. 24 times! That kind of growth is remarkable for a company that had already been public for 15 years and, everyone assumed, had already been through their boom time. Of course, what goes up can easily come down...

I stuck Google in there for good measure. It doesn't show as much growth as you'd think because GOOG's IPO-day closing price made it a very large company from the start...the chart hides Google's pre-IPO growth in value. But still, look at how much Apple's stock price has grown in comparison to Google's since the latter's IPO. (For fun, add Yahoo into the mix and dial the graph back to 1996.)

The iPad, the Kindle, and the future of booksApr 19 2010

Writing for the New Yorker, Ken Auletta surveys the ebook landscape: it's Apple, Amazon, Google, and the book publishers engaged in a poker game for the hearts, minds, and wallets of book buyers. Kindle editions of books are selling well:

There are now an estimated three million Kindles in use, and Amazon lists more than four hundred and fifty thousand e-books. If the same book is available in paper and paperless form, Amazon says, forty per cent of its customers order the electronic version. Russ Grandinetti, the Amazon vice-president, says the Kindle has boosted book sales over all. "On average," he says, Kindle users "buy 3.1 times as many books as they did twelve months ago."

Many compare ebook-selling to what iTunes was able to do with music albums. But Auletta notes:

The analogy of the music business goes only so far. What iTunes did was to replace the CD as the basic unit of commerce; rather than being forced to buy an entire album to get the song you really wanted, you could buy just the single track. But no one, with the possible exception of students, will want to buy a single chapter of most books.

I've touched on this before, but while people may not want to buy single chapters of books, they do want to read things that aren't book length. I think we'll see more literature in the novella/short-story/long magazine article range as publishers and authors attempt to fill that gap.

But mostly, I couldn't stop thinking of something that Clay Shirky recently said:

Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.

When an industry changes dramatically, the future belongs to the nimble.

Twitter's Promoted TweetsApr 13 2010

Twitter announced their long-awaited advertising model last night: Promoted Tweets. Companies and people will be able to purchase tweets that will show up first in certain search results or right in people's tweet streams. Which, if you rewind the clock a few years, is exactly the sort of thing that used to get people all upset with search engine results...and is one of the (many) reasons that Google won the search wars: they kept their sponsored results and organic results separate. It will be interesting to see if the world has changed in that time.

Not your father's PageRankFeb 26 2010

Steven Levy on how Google's search algorithm has changed over the years.

Take, for instance, the way Google's engine learns which words are synonyms. "We discovered a nifty thing very early on," Singhal says. "People change words in their queries. So someone would say, 'pictures of dogs,' and then they'd say, 'pictures of puppies.' So that told us that maybe 'dogs' and 'puppies' were interchangeable. We also learned that when you boil water, it's hot water. We were relearning semantics from humans, and that was a great advance."

But there were obstacles. Google's synonym system understood that a dog was similar to a puppy and that boiling water was hot. But it also concluded that a hot dog was the same as a boiling puppy. The problem was fixed in late 2002 by a breakthrough based on philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein's theories about how words are defined by context. As Google crawled and archived billions of documents and Web pages, it analyzed what words were close to each other. "Hot dog" would be found in searches that also contained "bread" and "mustard" and "baseball games" -- not poached pooches. That helped the algorithm understand what "hot dog" -- and millions of other terms -- meant. "Today, if you type 'Gandhi bio,' we know that bio means biography," Singhal says. "And if you type 'bio warfare,' it means biological."

Or in simpler terms, here's a snippet of a conversation that Google might have with itself:

A rock is a rock. It's also a stone, and it could be a boulder. Spell it "rokc" and it's still a rock. But put "little" in front of it and it's the capital of Arkansas. Which is not an ark. Unless Noah is around.

Protect your privacy from GoogleFeb 12 2010

After months and years of complaints, Google is now allowing users to opt-out of its service by moving them to a remote mountain village.

Google's Super Bowl adFeb 08 2010

It didn't feature an athletic woman with a flimsy bra throwing a hammer through a screen, but I thought Google's Super Bowl ad was pretty well done:

Google DNSDec 03 2009

Google announced their public DNS server today. I'm using it right now. There's been a bunch of speculation as to why Google is offering this service for free but the reason is pretty simple: they want to speed up people's Google search results. In 2006, Google VP Marissa Mayer told the audience at the Web 2.0 conference that slowing a user's search experience down even a fraction of a second results in fewer searches and less customer satisfaction.

Marissa ran an experiment where Google increased the number of search results to thirty. Traffic and revenue from Google searchers in the experimental group dropped by 20%.

Ouch. Why? Why, when users had asked for this, did they seem to hate it?

After a bit of looking, Marissa explained that they found an uncontrolled variable. The page with 10 results took .4 seconds to generate. The page with 30 results took .9 seconds.

Half a second delay caused a 20% drop in traffic. Half a second delay killed user satisfaction.

Former Amazon employee Greg Linden backs up Mayer's claim:

This conclusion may be surprising -- people notice a half second delay? -- but we had a similar experience at Amazon.com. In A/B tests, we tried delaying the page in increments of 100 milliseconds and found that even very small delays would result in substantial and costly drops in revenue.

Google's page turnersOct 20 2009

This is page 471 of The Anglo-American Telegraphic Code book (previously mentioned here).

Google Books Fingers

Looks like the scanner caught one of Google's pink-fingered elves at work. A quick search reveals several other such errors.

Life Magazine archive, online for freeOct 19 2009

Every issue of Life Magazine until the end of 1972 is available on Google Books for free. This archive joins Google's already impressive archive of millions of photos from Life. (via footnotes of mad men)

Larry PageRank, not Web PageRankOct 12 2009

By mapping, among other variables, how many people click on a link, and how long they linger there, Google assigns it a value, known as PageRank, after Larry Page.

That's from Ken Auletta's article about Google in the New Yorker last week. Didn't know that PageRank was named after Larry Page. (via @dens)

PageRank useful in determining ecosystem collapseSep 04 2009

In addition to its utility in organizing the World Wide Web, researchers say that Google's PageRank algorithm is useful in studying food webs, "the complex networks of who eats whom in an ecosystem".

Dr Allesina, of the University of Chicago's department of ecology and Evolution, told BBC News: "First of all we had to reverse the definition of the algorithm. "In PageRank, a web page is important if important pages point to it. In our approach a species is important if it points to important species."

The researchers compared the performance of PageRank and found it comparable to that of much more complex computational biology algorithms.

Power reading with Google ReaderAug 25 2009

Google recently asked a bunch of folks, including me, what their favorite online reads are. The result is Power Readers (more info). You can find my picks on the tech/web page and subscribe to the whole mess of 'em in Google Reader.

Google Street View as documentary photographyAug 13 2009

An assessment: what sort of photographer is the Google Street View car?

Initially, I was attracted to the noisy amateur aesthetic of the raw images. Street Views evoked an urgency I felt was present in earlier street photography. With its supposedly neutral gaze, the Street View photography had a spontaneous quality unspoiled by the sensitivities or agendas of a human photographer. It was tempting to see the images as a neutral and privileged representation of reality -- as though the Street Views, wrenched from any social context other than geospatial contiguity, were able to perform true docu-photography, capturing fragments of reality stripped of all cultural intentions.

Google's new search engineAug 11 2009

Google is developing their next-generation search engine and needs your help in testing it out.

For the last several months, a large team of Googlers has been working on a secret project: a next-generation architecture for Google's web search. It's the first step in a process that will let us push the envelope on size, indexing speed, accuracy, comprehensiveness and other dimensions. The new infrastructure sits "under the hood" of Google's search engine, which means that most users won't notice a difference in search results.

(via waxy)

Making the web fasterJul 31 2009

Lots of resources from Google on making your web site faster.

Google Chrome OS and GooOSJul 08 2009

Google announced last night that they are building a lightweight operating system based on Google Chrome:

Google Chrome OS will run on both x86 as well as ARM chips and we are working with multiple OEMs to bring a number of netbooks to market next year. The software architecture is simple -- Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel. For application developers, the web is the platform. All web-based applications will automatically work and new applications can be written using your favorite web technologies. And of course, these apps will run not only on Google Chrome OS, but on any standards-based browser on Windows, Mac and Linux thereby giving developers the largest user base of any platform.

This seems a little like something I wrote in April 2004 about the GooOS:

Google isn't worried about Yahoo! or Microsoft's search efforts...although the media's focus on that is probably to their advantage. Their real target is Windows. Who needs Windows when anyone can have free unlimited access to the world's fastest computer running the smartest operating system? Mobile devices don't need big, bloated OSes...they'll be perfect platforms for accessing the GooOS. Using Gnome and Linux as a starting point, Google should design an OS for desktop computers that's modified to use the GooOS and sell it right alongside Windows ($200) at CompUSA for $10/apiece (available free online of course). Google Office (Goffice?) will be built in, with all your data stored locally, backed up remotely, and available to whomever it needs to be (SubEthaEdit-style collaboration on Word/Excel/PowerPoint-esque documents is only the beginning). Email, shopping, games, music, news, personal publishing, etc.; all the stuff that people use their computers for, it's all there.

But in many important ways, the GooOS I was talking about is largely already here and has little to do with Google Chrome OS. The underlying assumption in that post (stated more clearly in this post from Aug 2005) is that all of these apps are running in the browser. Which they now do: Gmail, Google Reader, Google Apps (word processing, spreadsheets), Aviary, Flickr, Pandora, YouTube, IM, etc. There are even online storage and backup mechanisms...do you even need local file storage? Hell, you can even use powerful apps like Mathematica in a browser. With little effort, many people can do 95% of their daily work entirely within a web browser. That's the real GooOS/WebOS, the important GooOS/WebOS.

Sure, GooOS is not an operating system as a programmer would define it but it's an OS from the perspective of the user -- "An operating system...is an interface between hardware and user" -- the browser is increasingly the sole point of interface for our interaction with computers. In a way, real operating systems are becoming irrelevant. Google's got it exactly right with Google Chrome OS: a browser sitting on top of a lightweight Unix layer that acts as the engine that the user doesn't need to know a whole lot about with the browser as the application layer. OS X might be the last important traditional desktop operating system, if only because it runs on desktops, laptops, the iPhone, and the inevitable Apple netbook/tablet thingie. But even OS X (and Windows and Google Chrome OS and Gnome and etc.) will lose marketshare to the WebOS...as long as users can run Firefox, Safari, or Chrome on whatever hardware they own, no one cares what flavor of Unix or tricked-out DOS that browser runs on.

Google's search dominanceMay 29 2009

After I heard Microsoft's announcement of yet-another-interation of their search engine (named Bing), I went to look at the stats for kottke.org for the past month to see how many visitors each search engine sent to the site. I couldn't believe how dominant Google was.

Google | 262,946 | 93.8%
MS Live | 4,307 | 1.5%
Yahoo | 4,036 | 1.4%
MSN | 2,796 | 1.0%

It's a small sample and doesn't match up with Comscore's numbers (Google: 64.2%, Yahoo: 20.4%, MS: 8.2%), but wow. As a comparison, the numbers for a year ago for kottke.org had Google at 91%, Yahoo at 4.9%, and Live at 0.7%.

WolframAlpha launchesMay 18 2009

If you're skeptical of WolframAlpha (as I was), you should watch this introduction by Stephen Wolfram. The comparison to Google (usually "is WolframAlpha a Google killer?") is not a good one but the new service could learn a little something from the reigning champion: hide the math. One of the geniuses of Google is that it took simple input and gave simple output with a whole lot of complexity in between that no one saw and few people cared about. Plus the underlying premise of the complex computation was simplified, branded (PageRank!), and became a value proposition for Google: here's what the web itself thinks is important about your query.

Google PowerMeterMay 05 2009

At the New Yorker Summit, Google's Dan Reicher mentioned the company's PowerMeter, an upcoming product/service that will measure household power use.

Google PowerMeter, now in prototype, will receive information from utility smart meters and energy management devices and provide anyone who signs up access to her home electricity consumption right on her iGoogle homepage. The graph below shows how someone could use this information to figure out how much energy is used by different household activites.

Felix Salmon lays out the rationale:

The behavioral sociology of measuring energy usage is simple: the more you know about how much energy you're using, the less you use. Just getting the information cuts most people's energy usage by somewhere between 5% and 15%, while people with high electricity bills (like me) find it much easier to isolate exactly what is causing those bills and can then work out how best to reduce them through upgrading appliances or replacing incandescent bulbs with CFLs or any number of other routes to energy efficiency.

Time travel via Google MapsApr 08 2009

Phil Gyford has some intriguing thoughts on how Google Maps could develop in the years to come.

Imagine in, say, 2059 looking up a location on Google Maps and being able to dial the view back fifty years to see what that building looked like in 2009. Zoom back and forth in time to see how the place changed as decades flip by. That will be amazing.

(via migurski)

Update: Google Earth already does historical comparisons. (thx, garo)

Google and designMar 20 2009

How should a company like Google approach design? By the numbers?

A designer, Jamie Divine, had picked out a blue that everyone on his team liked. But a product manager tested a different color with users and found they were more likely to click on the toolbar if it was painted a greener shade.

As trivial as color choices might seem, clicks are a key part of Google's revenue stream, and anything that enhances clicks means more money. Mr. Divine's team resisted the greener hue, so Ms. Mayer split the difference by choosing a shade halfway between those of the two camps.

Her decision was diplomatic, but it also amounted to relying on her gut rather than research. Since then, she said, she has asked her team to test the 41 gradations between the competing blues to see which ones consumers might prefer.

Or in the hands of artist practitioners?

Without a person at (or near) the helm who thoroughly understands the principles and elements of Design, a company eventually runs out of reasons for design decisions. With every new design decision, critics cry foul. Without conviction, doubt creeps in. Instincts fail. "Is this the right move?" When a company is filled with engineers, it turns to engineering to solve problems. Reduce each decision to a simple logic problem. Remove all subjectivity and just look at the data. Data in your favor? Ok, launch it. Data shows negative effects? Back to the drawing board. And that data eventually becomes a crutch for every decision, paralyzing the company and preventing it from making any daring design decisions.

In many cases, I'd trust a good designer with 10 years of experience over The Numbers™. That 10 years represents an internalization of thousands of instances of The Numbers across a broad range of experience. At other times, the quantitative approach is useful. Part of being an effective designer (or an auto mechanic or an engineer or programmer etc.) is learning to recognize the right mixture of the two approaches.

Google's Very Hungry CaterpillarMar 20 2009

The Very Hungry Caterpillar was one of my favorite books when I was a kid and I've loved reading it to Ollie over the past few months. So of course, Google's logo today is aces.

Google Hungry Caterpillar

Now do Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs!

Was this review helpful to you?Mar 20 2009

Jared Spool reveals that a simple yes/no question added to Amazon's site brought in an additional $2.7 billion in revenue.

Amazon had reviews from the very first day. It's always been a feature that customers love. (Many non-customers talk about how they check out the reviews on Amazon first, then buy the product someplace else.) Initially, the review system was purely chronological. The designers didn't account for users entering hundreds or thousands of reviews.

For small numbers, chronology works just fine. However, it quickly becomes unmanageable. (For example, anyone who discovers an established blog may feel they've come in at the middle of a conversation, since only the most recent topics are presented first. It seems as if the writer assumed the readers had read everything from the beginning.)

The reviews of reviews are really helpful when buying. Personally, I always check out four types of reviews on Amazon in roughly this order:

1) most helpful/highest rated, 2) most helpful/lowest rated, 3) least helpful/highest rated, 4) least helpful/lowest rated

Sometimes reading a really negative review which many people think is spectacularly wrong can help make a useful buying decision.

See also the $300 million button and Cynical-C's new series on one-star reviews of classic books, movies, and music: To Kill a Mockingbird and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. (via designnotes)

Update: There is also the Billion Dollar HTML Tag.

This phenomenon is best illustrated by a single design tweak to the Google search results page in 2000 that Mayer calls "The Billion Dollar HTML Tag." Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page asked Mayer to assess the impact of adding a column of text ads in the right-hand column of the results page. Could this design, which at the time required an HTML table, be implemented without the slower page load time often associated with tables?

Mayer consulted the W3C HTML specs and found a tag (the "align=right" table attribute) that would allow the right-hand table to load before the search results, adding a revenue stream that has been critical to Google's financial success.

Google VoiceMar 12 2009

After almost two years, Google finally does something with GrandCentral: Google Voice (announcement). David Pogue raves about it in the Times.

From now on, you don't have to listen to your messages in order; you don't have to listen to them at all. In seconds, these recordings are converted into typed text. They show up as e-mail messages or text messages on your cellphone. This is huge. It means that you can search, sort, save, forward, copy and paste voice mail messages.

GrandCentral was amazing enough...Google Voice really sounds spectacular.

Citizen cartographers, unite!Dec 17 2008

Google is soliciting contributions to Google Maps with their Map Maker service.

With Google Map Maker, you can become a citizen cartographer and help improve the quality of maps and local information in your region. You are invited to map the world with us!

They've posted several videos to YouTube that show timelapsed edits to maps; here's Islamabad, Pakistan coming into existence. (via o'reilly radar)

Update: Several people wrote in to recommend OpenStreetMap instead because Google doesn't make the data available in a raw form whereas the OSM data is under a CC license available for derivative works like OpenCycleMap. (thx, mike and everyone)

Google Book Search now does magazinesDec 10 2008

Google Book Search has added a few magazines to their repertoire.

Today, we're announcing an initiative to help bring more magazine archives and current magazines online, partnering with publishers to begin digitizing millions of articles from titles as diverse as New York Magazine, Popular Mechanics, and Ebony.

At least I think it's a few magazines...it might be thousands but there's no way (that I can find) to view a list of magazines on offer.

Update: Spellbound and Thomas Gruber have lists of some of the magazines on offer.

Search correlations with StateStatsDec 03 2008

StateStats is hours of fun. It tracks the popularity of Google searches per state and then correlates the results to a variety of metrics. For instance:

Mittens - big in Vermont, Maine, and Minnesota, moderate positive correlation with life expectancy, and moderate negative correlation with violent crime. (Difficult to commit crimes while wearing mittens?)

Nascar - popular in North and South Carolinas, strong positive correlation with obesity, and and moderate negative correlation with same sex couples and income.

Sushi - big in NY and CA, moderate positive correlation with votes for Obama, and moderate negative correlation with votes for Bush.

Gun - moderate positive correlation with suicide and moderate negative correlation with votes for Obama. (Obama is gonna take away your guns but, hey, you'll live.)

Calender (misspelled) - moderate positive correlation with illiteracy and rainfall and moderate negative correlation with suicide.

Diet - moderate positive correlation with obesity and infant mortality and moderate negative correlation with high school graduation rates.

Kottke - popular in WI and MN, moderate positive correlation with votes for Obama, and moderate negative correlation with votes for Bush.

Cuisine - This was my best attempt at a word with strong correlations but wasn't overly clustered in an obvious way (e.g. blue/red states, urban/rural, etc.). Strong positive correlation with same sex couples and votes for Obama and strong negative correlation with energy consumption and votes for Bush.

I could do this all day. A note on the site about correlation vs. causality:

Be careful drawing conclusions from this data. For example, the fact that walmart shows a moderate correlation with "Obesity" does not imply that people who search for "walmart" are obese! It only means that states with a high obesity rate tend to have a high rate of users searching for walmart, and vice versa. You should not infer causality from this tool: In the walmart example, the high correlation is driven partly by the fact that both obesity and Walmart stores are prevalent in the southeastern U.S., and these two facts may have independent explanations.

Can you find any searches that show some interesting results? Strong correlations are not that easy to find (although foie gras is a good one). (thx, ben)

Life magazine photographs onlineNov 18 2008

Wow, Google is hosting millions of photographs from Life magazine from the 1860s to the 1970s. Would have been nice to see these on Flickr instead (so that people could add tags, annotate, etc.), but this is an amazing resource. (via df)

Google Flu TrendsNov 12 2008

Google is tracking search terms to predict when the flu is going to hit different areas in the US.

During the 2007-2008 flu season, an early version of Google Flu Trends was used to share results each week with the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch of the Influenza Division at CDC. Across each of the nine surveillance regions of the United States, we were able to accurately estimate current flu levels one to two weeks faster than published CDC reports.

2001, a search odysseyOct 01 2008

Google has released a search engine that only searches their index from 2001. kottke.org is in there. (via waxy)

Flexible network usage for mobile phonesSep 25 2008

Google has filed a patent that might eliminate the need for mobile phone users to choose a single network. Instead, a piece of software would poll all available networks and select the most appropriate one based on price.

Devices using the system would send networks a description of their requirements -- for example, a phone call or access to the internet -- and receive back bids with a per-minute cost, or flat rate, at which those needs could be met. Users can either manually accept the bid that looks best to them, or have the phone choose one automatically, based on pre-programmed criteria.

Besides being a brain-dead obvious idea -- nice work once again, USPTO -- if a system like this were put in place, calling Mom on Mother's Day would get a whole lot more expensive, as would calls and data usage during other peak times or locations.

Update: I'm reminded that this is just an application, not an accepted patent, so my "nice work" comment doesn't apply. But I would imagine that patents coming from Google have little trouble getting accepted. (thx, mike)

NYC subway directions on Google MapsSep 23 2008

Google has added transit directions to Google Maps. Finally.

We've just added comprehensive transit info for the entire New York metro region, encompassing subway, commuter rail, bus and ferry services from the Metropolitan Transit Agency (MTA), the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, New Jersey Transit and the City of New York.

One feature I'd like: a quick at-a-glance comparison of the three travel methods (walking, subway/train, driving) to see which is going to take less time.

Google to scan newspaper archivesSep 09 2008

In exchange for publishing rights on their site, Google is offering to foot the bill for scanning the archives of any newspaper, like the NY Times and others have done.

As part of the latest initiative, Google will foot the bill to copy the archives of any newspaper publisher willing to permit the stories to be shown for free on Google's Web site. The participating publishers will receive an unspecified portion of the revenue generated from the ads displayed next to the stories.

(via rw)

Google Chrome, Google BrowserSep 01 2008

Google Browser, 2001.

What if Google built something that was very much like a browser but was mainly used for searching for information. What if they built a tool that was focused on searching for answers to your questions first, and looking at web pages second. Wrap your head around that. You have search needs. You also have unique search patterns. You have ways of looking for information that are very interesting and personal. Where are the tools that help you search? You are probably thinking of search engines, like Google. But search engines are server based. Why not bring the power of the server to the desktop? There are some tools out there like this, but they aren't complete. They also don't have the usability and brand recognition of Google.

Google Browser, 2003.

So, a Google browser, based on Mozilla. An easily-justified commitment to cross-platform support and outstanding user experience, based on Google's history of honoring those tenets and the Mozilla organization's inherent preference for them. Culturally, hiring the core members of the Mozilla dev team would be an extraordinarily easy fit. And, frankly, it'd probably require little more development resources, bandwidth, or staffing than the Pyra acquisition did.

Google Browser, 2004.

Google could use their JavaScript expertise (in the form of Gmail ubercoder Chris Wetherell) to build Mozilla applications. Built-in blogging tools. Built-in Gmail tools. Built-in search tools. A search pane that watches what you're browsing and suggests related pages and search queries or watches what you're blogging and suggests related pages, news items, or emails you've written. Google Toolbar++. You get the idea.

Google Browser, 2008.

All of us at Google spend much of our time working inside a browser. We search, chat, email and collaborate in a browser. And in our spare time, we shop, bank, read news and keep in touch with friends -- all using a browser. Because we spend so much time online, we began seriously thinking about what kind of browser could exist if we started from scratch and built on the best elements out there. We realized that the web had evolved from mainly simple text pages to rich, interactive applications and that we needed to completely rethink the browser. What we really needed was not just a browser, but also a modern platform for web pages and applications, and that's what we set out to build.

More on this tomorrow if motivation allows.

From Google Earth to a gold medalAug 29 2008

Kristin Armstrong, the Olympic gold medalist in the women's individual time trial in road cycling, took a GPS unit along with her when she previewed the road course in Beijing in December 2007. When she got home to Idaho, she d/led the data, put it into Google Earth, and found a similar local loop on which to train.

This capability along with having the elevation profile proved invaluable in my preparation for my Gold Medal race.

(via matt's a.whole)

Radiohead and Google, together at lastJul 14 2008

Radiohead + Google + data visualization + lasers = I am contractually obligated to post this. Google has the backstory and some code for Radiohead's new music video, which was "filmed" using lasers instead of cameras. (via jimray)

Realtime Google stock pricesJun 09 2008

Google is providing real-time stock prices now...no page refresh necessary. So you can, for instance, watch Apple's stock price drop after Jobs' keynote. Now I know how daytraders feel...I can't take my eyes off of the screen.

It's been awhile since the last conversationMar 19 2008

It's been awhile since the last conversation about gender diversity at web conferences. Here's a particularly high profile example of more of the same: Google's just-announced Web Forward conference appears to have a single woman speaker out of 38 total speakers.

Google Sky is like Google Earth forMar 14 2008

Google Sky is like Google Earth for the, er, sky. The historical constellation drawing overlay is very cool.

P.S. I starting sobbing like a little baby when I saw this.

You know what's dumb about the "SoAndSoFeb 25 2008

You know what's dumb about the "SoAndSo Company is the Next Google" headlines. But do you know what's *really* dumb about the "SoAndSo Company is the Next Google" headlines? Before Google became the company whose success everyone was chasing, it was Microsoft. Before that, it was IBM. That's it, three companies since 1960. What are the chances it's going to happen again anytime soon? (Nothing against Etsy, but this is the one that set me off.)

Gmail released a new mobile version. ItJan 15 2008

Gmail released a new mobile version. It is bulky, slow to load, and pretty yet irritating on the iPhone. I couldn't be less happy about it, and had a fit in midtown last night trying to get my email. I suppose, like all new things, I will grow accustomed to it.

Mark Zuckerberg On '60 Minutes'Jan 14 2008

Lesley Stahl of '60 Minutes' did a big piece last night on Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (It followed Anderson Cooper's horrifying story on rape in Congo and the spillover of Rwandan terror into the country; unreal.)

The worst part (about 3 minutes in, on the online video) came when Stahl said Facebook was the new Google. "You seem to be replacing [Google co-founders] Larry and Sergey as the people out here who everyone's talking about," she said. Zuckerberg didn't say anything. "You're just staring at me," she said, almost immediately. "Is that a question?" he asked her. Then: "We were warned he could be awkward," she said in a voice-over. Actually no, Lesley, that was a savvy response to a terrible, no-win question.

Rogers Cadenhead has beaten me to theDec 20 2007

Rogers Cadenhead has beaten me to the punch in calculating the winner of the Dave Winer/Martin Nisenholtz Long Bet pitting the NY Times vs. blogs to see who ranks higher in end of the year search results for the 5 most important news stories of 2007. The winner? Wikipedia.

The Times has really improved their position in Google since 2005...opening up their archives helped, I bet.

God's Eye View presents four important BiblicalDec 17 2007

God's Eye View presents four important Biblical events as if captured by Google Earth, including The Crucifixion, Noah's Ark, and Moses parting the Red Sea.

A fundamental rule of the internet:Dec 15 2007

A fundamental rule of the internet:

Trying stuff is cheaper than deciding whether to try it. (Compare the cost of paying and feeding someone to do a few weeks of [Perl or PHP] hacking to the full cost of the meetings that went into a big company decision.) Don't overplan something. Just do it half-assed to start with, then throw more people at it to fix it if it works.

1984 all over again?Nov 07 2007

Google recently announced that a bunch of companies (aka the Open Handset Alliance) were getting together to make cell phones that run on an open platform called Android. That was a couple of days ago so maybe someone else has already made the imperfect comparison between this and Mac vs. PC circa 1984, but if not:

1984 2007

Or perhaps Steven Frank has it right:

A 34-company committee couldn't create a successful ham sandwich, much less a mobile application suite.

There are indications that Google is changingOct 24 2007

There are indications that Google is changing their PageRank algorithm, possibly to penalize sites running paid links or too many cross-promotional links across blog networks. Affected sites include Engadget, Forbes, and Washington Post. Even Boing Boing, which I think had been at 9, is down to 7. You can check a site's PR here.

Depending on the site, 30-40% of a site's total traffic can come from search engines, much of that from Google. It will be interesting to see how much of an impact the PR drop will have on their traffic and revenue. (thx, my moon my mann)

Update: Just got the following from the editor of a site that got its PR bumped down. He says:

Two weeks ago I lost 80% of my search traffic due to, I believe, using ads from Text-Link-Ads, which does not permit the "nofollow" attribute on link ads. That meant an overall drop of more than 44% of my total traffic. It also meant a 65%-95% drop in Google AdSense earnings per day and a loss of PageRank from 7 to 6.

He has removed the text links from his site and is negotiating with Google for reinstatement but estimates a loss in revenue of $10,000 for the year due to this change. And this is for a relatively small site...the Engadget folks must be freaking out.

What if the Google homepage were optimizedOct 17 2007

What if the Google homepage were optimized for Google? (via magnetbox)

Speaking of cool Etsy shops, elastiCo isSep 17 2007

Speaking of cool Etsy shops, elastiCo is selling pillows and tshirts with the most popular Google News search terms printed on them.

I've been keeping up with the latestJun 22 2007

I've been keeping up with the latest iPhone news but I haven't been telling you about it...partially because my poor pal Merlin is about to pop an artery due to all the hype. Anyway, it's Friday and he's got all weekend to clean that up, so here we go. The big thing is a 20-minute guided tour of the device, wherein we learn that there's a neat swiping delete gesture, you can view Word docs, it's thumb-typeable, the earbuds wires house the world's smallest remote control, Google Maps have driving directions *and* traffic conditions, and there's an "airplane mode" that turns off all the wifi, cell, and Bluetooth signals for plane trips. It looks like the iPhone will be available online...here's the page at the Apple Store. What else? It plays YouTube videos. iPhone setup will be handled through iTunes: "To set up your iPhone, you'll need an account with Apple's iTunes Store."

On brand indentities that are flexible (vs.Jun 21 2007

On brand indentities that are flexible (vs. those that are static). Examples: Google's logo, Target's bullseye, and Saks' jumbly identity. "As advertising agencies lose their grip on the communications channels, the logos are starting to come out of the corner. Once pushed as far over to the bottom right as possible, they're becoming central to communication, no longer content to just be the the full-stop at the end of a piece of branded communication." (via quipsologies)

A rerun, because it came up atJun 07 2007

A rerun, because it came up at dinner the other night: EPIC 2014, the recent history of technology and the media as told from the vantage point of 7 years in the future. "2008 sees the alliance that will challenge Microsoft's ambitions. Google and Amazon join forces to form Googlezon. Google supplies the Google Grid and unparalled search technology. Amazon supplies the social recommendation engine and its huge commercial infrastructure."

An interesting somewhat-inside look at Google's searchJun 04 2007

An interesting somewhat-inside look at Google's search technology. I found this interesting: "When there is a blackout in New York, the first articles appear in 15 minutes; we get queries in two seconds." No matter how hard CNN or Digg or Twitter works to harness their audience to break news, hooking up Google search queries to Google News in a useful manner would likely scoop them all every time.

I'm sure this functionality is coming, butJun 01 2007

I'm sure this functionality is coming, but when using the new Street View feature in combination with driving directions on Google Maps, I want a play button that drives me from the starting point to my destination, showing me the street-level view along the way.

Back in August 2005, I gave Google aJun 01 2007

Back in August 2005, I gave Google a good shot at developing a WebOS of sorts, a browser-based platform on which would run a suite of apps to replace a bunch of the most commonly used desktop applications. Google Gears is a another small piece of the bigger puzzle, a browser extension that allows web apps to provide offline functionality. I don't think the offline thing is as important as it was two years ago; people have gotten very comfortable using web apps and web access, especially among heavy users, is almost continuous and ubiquitous. That and if the hype about Facebook's new platform is accurate, working online together is more compelling than working offline apart.

Google is the crossword puzzler's best friend.May 28 2007

Google is the crossword puzzler's best friend. Several of the top 100 searches on a given day are for crossword clues. This was more apparent a few days ago but it looks like they've started to filter the crossword terms out. More here. (thx, peggy & jonah)

kottke.org banned from Technorati top 100?May 10 2007

Since swearing off Technorati a couple of years ago, I've been checking back every few months to see if the situation has improved. The site is definitely more responsive but their data problems seemingly remain, at least with regard to kottke.org; Google Blog Search gives consistently better results and easy access to RSS feeds of searches.

Technorati recently introduced something called the Technorati Authority number, which is a fancy name for the number of blogs linking to a site in the last six months. Curious as to where kottke.org fell on the authority scale, I checked out the top 100 blogs list. Not there, so I proceeded to the "Everything in the known universe about kottke.org" page where a portion of that huge cache of kottke.org knowledge was the authority number: 5,094. Looking at the top 100 list, that should put the site at #47, nestled between The Superficial and fishki.net, but it's not there. Technorati also currently states that kottke.org hasn't been updated in the last day, despite several updates since then and my copy of MT pinging Technorati after each update.

Maybe kottke.org has been intentionally excluded because I've been so hard on them in the past. Or maybe it's just a glitch (or two) in their system. Or maybe it's an indication of larger problems with their service. Either way, as the company is attempting to offer an authentic picture of the blogosphere, this doesn't seem like the type of rigor and accuracy that should send reputable media sources like the BBC, Washington Post, NY Times, and the Wall Street Journal scurrying to their door looking for reliable data about blogs.

Update: As of 3:45pm EST, the top 100 list has been updated to include kottke.org. The site also picked up this post right away, but failed to note a subsequent post published a few minutes later..

Jeff Veen: "Today, a completely redesigned versionMay 08 2007

Jeff Veen: "Today, a completely redesigned version of Google Analytics is launching, bringing a lot of the simplicity and data visualization techniques we learned building Measure Map to a whole new scale." They aren't switching everyone right away (no love for me yet) but you can read this post and get an idea of what to expect. Also: sparklines!

Regarding the recent Google news (YouTube, DoubleClick,Apr 16 2007

Regarding the recent Google news (YouTube, DoubleClick, Dodgeball), Fred Wilson tells us it's time to pour a little malt liquor on the ground and say goodbye to the old Google, the Google that we all know and love, and welcome the new Google, a big company, for better or worse. "Google's lawyers are going to become their most important asset and when lawyers are more important than engineers to a company, you lose."

Dodgeball founders leave Google and that leavesApr 15 2007

Dodgeball founders leave Google and that leaves Dodgeball probably dead. Then why did Google buy Dodgeball exactly? Not for the founders...they left. Not for the tech. To build it up into a profitable company? (Nope, they didn't put any resources into it.) To kill it before some other company (Yahoo, Microsoft) got their mitts on it? For the PR value? Why did they even bother?

Update: Official thumbs-down announcement here. "It's no real secret that Google wasn't supporting dodgeball the way we expected. The whole experience was incredibly frustrating for us - especially as we couldn't convince them that dodgeball was worth engineering resources, leaving us to watch as other startups got to innovate in the mobile + social space. And while it was a tough decision (and really disappointing) to walk away from dodgeball, I'm actually looking forward to getting to work on other projects again."

Google buys Doubleclick for $3.1 billion. My assertionApr 14 2007

Google buys Doubleclick for $3.1 billion. My assertion more than four years ago that Google is not a search engine isn't looking too shabby.

Driving directions from New York City toMar 29 2007

Driving directions from New York City to Dublin, Ireland, courtesy of Google Maps. Step 23: "Swim across the Atlantic Ocean. 3462 mi." Not sure why you have to swim to France to get to Dublin, but ok. (thx, ayush)

Google AppsFeb 22 2007

The NY Times today:

On Thursday, Google, the Internet search giant, will unveil a package of communications and productivity software aimed at businesses, which overwhelmingly rely on Microsoft products for those functions.

The package, called Google Apps, combines two sets of previously available software bundles. One included programs for e-mail, instant messaging, calendars and Web page creation; the other, called Docs and Spreadsheets, included programs to read and edit documents created with Microsoft Word and Excel, the mainstays of Microsoft Office, an $11 billion annual franchise.

kottke.org from April 2004:

Google isn't worried about Yahoo! or Microsoft's search efforts...although the media's focus on that is probably to their advantage. Their real target is Windows. Who needs Windows when anyone can have free unlimited access to the world's fastest computer running the smartest operating system? Mobile devices don't need big, bloated OSes...they'll be perfect platforms for accessing the GooOS. Using Gnome and Linux as a starting point, Google should design an OS for desktop computers that's modified to use the GooOS and sell it right alongside Windows ($200) at CompUSA for $10/apiece (available free online of course). Google Office (Goffice?) will be built in, with all your data stored locally, backed up remotely, and available to whomever it needs to be (SubEthaEdit-style collaboration on Word/Excel/PowerPoint-esque documents is only the beginning). Email, shopping, games, music, news, personal publishing, etc.; all the stuff that people use their computers for, it's all there.

When you swing a hammer in the vicinity of so many nails, you're bound to hit one on the head every once in awhile. Well, I got it in the general area of the nail, anyway.

New Google Maps featuresFeb 20 2007

Not sure when these features were added, but Google Maps now displays public transportation stops (NYC subway, the T in Boston, the L in Chicago) and building outlines for metropolitan areas. Here's a shot of the West Village in NYC:

Google Maps subway stops and buildings

Tiny but useful improvements. (thx, meg)

Jeffrey Toobin, the New Yorker's legal writer,Feb 01 2007

Jeffrey Toobin, the New Yorker's legal writer, has penned a piece about Google's book scanning efforts and the legal challenges it faces. Interestingly, both Google and the publishers who are suing them say that the lawsuit is basically a business negotiation tactic. However, according to Larry Lessig, settling the lawsuit might not be the best thing for anyone outside the lawsuit: "Google wants to be able to get this done, and get permission to resume scanning copyrighted material at all the libraries. For the publishers, if Google gives them anything at all, it creates a practical precedent, if not a legal precedent, that no one has the right to scan this material without their consent. That's a win for them. The problem is that even though a settlement would be good for Google and good for the publishers, it would be bad for everyone else."

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