Google recently announced three new updates to its search service:
- Search Options will helps users prune their results and generate different views to locate desired information. For example, a query for recent forum discussions about a specific product can filter the results to include only forum sites and limit the results to the past week.
- Rich snippets will extract and display expanded summary information, including page-specific attributes, to help users determine the relevance of their results. Queries for local restaurants, for example, might include reviews, the restaurant’s average review score, and price range.
- Google Squared takes another step towards semantic search and “automatically fetches and organizes facts from across the Internet” and creates a spreadsheet of structured values that can be saved for later reference. Google Squared will become available to users later this month on Google Labs.
We’re all guilt of it: vanity searching. Maybe you just want to make sure prospective employers can’t find out about your college antics or maybe you’re hoping an ex-partner will stumble across news of your promotion and deem you The One That Got Away. Either way, now you can have more control over what people searching for you discover when they Google your name. That’s right–Google search engine results pages (SERPs) will now include Google Profiles. The profiles, Google’s stab at social networking across its services, include such information as a short biography, links to blogs and social media profiles, photos, location, contact information, and more. The very ambitious–or just those with very popular names–can even register vanity URLs for their profiles.
But not everyone who creates a profile will earn one of the four SERP links to profiles for a given name. Anectodal evidence suggests that comprehensiveness of the profile could help its chances, but Google has not disclosed specific criteria yet. If you’re interested in creating a profile, also be aware that you must opt into the service and the links in your profile will not affect PageRank or boost a site’s reputation. But it could boost your reputation with your long-lost high school nemesis who’s been trolling the web dying to find out if he’s still getting better-looking dates than you.
Over the Easter weekend, Twitter was hit by two worms created by a 17-year-old from Brooklyn. The “StalkDaily” and “Mikeyy” worms proved to be more of a nuisance for the Twitter team than a serious security breach, but Michael Mooney (who claimed he unleashed the wigglers partly out of ennui and partly to exploit a vulnerability in the Twitter code) still managed to foul up hundreds of accounts and send some 10,000 spam Tweets before the damage could be fixed and the accounts secured.
Twitter Co-Founder Biz Stone hinted, before Mooney came forward, that the company would take legal against against the perpetrator. Mooney’s reaction to the potential legal repercussions of viral actions was that of a typical teenager–incongruous with a dash of blasé. “I feel pretty bad about it, but it’s not me that left the vulnerability out in the open,” he said. “I’m not worried, though. I know that it could land me in jail.”
Next time Mr. Mooney is feeling bored, he might take a walk or read a book instead. Or just realize that monotony is a part of life. That flat, listless, empty feeling? Not worth jail, kid.
In other news, Google has created a timeline feature for its news articles to show which sources break stories and how the stories develop over time. News aggregators’ inability (or just unwillingness) to “point users to the latest and most authoritative sources of breaking news” was one of the AP’s chief complaints when it announced last week a new initiative to track AP content online. Although Google CEO Eric Schmidt denied that the AP’s allegations of “misappropriation” included the search engine, Google could be trying to cover its bases, nonetheless.
On the heels of yesterday’s brouhaha over online misappropriation of AP content, Google CEO Eric Schmidt delivered the closing speech at the Newspaper Association of America’s annual meeting yesterday. Schmidt praised the industry’s importance and efforts at innovation during the early days of the Internet but criticized its subsequent staidness, saying, “It’s obvious to me that the majority of the circulation of a newspaper should be online, rather than printed. There should be five times, 10 times more circulation because there’s no distribution cost.” He added, “I would encourage everybody: think in terms of what your reader wants,” he said. “These are ultimately consumer businesses and if you piss off enough of them, you will not have any more.”
Of the recent AP initiative to track and take legal and legislative action against those sites and services which the AP feels mishandle its content, Schmidt was largely reticent, saying only, “I was a little confused by all the excitement. We at Google have a multimillion-dollar deal with the Associated Press not only to distribute their content but also to host it on our servers.”
It’s hard to believe that the attitude at Google headquarters is really that cavalier. Earlier this week, Wall Street Journal Editor Robert Thomson called Google an “Internet parasite,” sucking the blood (read: money) out of content without absorbing any of the costs. And the Google name has been mentioned by numerous sources as the biggest possible target of the AP’s wrath, “multimillion-dollar deal” notwithstanding. But, then again, public legal battles are nothing new for Google, so perhaps they’ve adopted a steely aegis against the haters. And with 72% search market share in February, according to Hitwise, Google’s naysayers don’t seem to have made any dent in the search engine’s popularity at all.
The blogosphere loves a juicy Google rumor, but just like any rumor mill, some of what gets pushed through is true and some isn’t. In the case of the recent TechCrunch-fueled rumor about Google being in the late stages of acquiring hot microblogging service Twitter, most of the talk seems confined to the realm of hearsay. Michael Arrington said “Here’s a heck of a rumor that we’ve sourced from two separate people close to the negotiations: Google is in late stage negotiations to acquire Twitter. We don’t know the price but can assume it’s well, well north of the $250 million valuation that they saw in their recent funding.”
However, BoomTown’s Kara Swisher shot back with this headline: “Sorry to Get You All A-Twitter, but Google Is Not in ‘Late-Stage Talks’ to Acquire the Hot Microblogging Service.” Well, it doesn’t get much clearer than that, right? According to Swisher, the two companies have been discussing products and things such as real-time search, but nothing more.
Swisher’s assessment certainly fits better with Twitter’s past response to acquisition attempts; last fall, the San Francisco-based startup rejected a $500 million offer from Facebook. Also, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said last month that the company intends to hold onto its money for now, which it seems to be doing, cutting advertising programs such as Radio Ads and letting go of some 200-300 employees at the end of March.
Twitter co-founder Biz Stone also (indirectly) tackled the rumor on The Colbert Report, saying that the company wants to remain independent for now—the subtext being independent AND profitable, which Twitter hopes to do by launching paid commercial accounts in the future.
Still, there’s a lot of incentive for Google—or any major search player, for that matter—to try and woo Twitter into its ad-serving arms, if for no other reason than Twitter’s ability to provide instant information-sharing. Twitter also has a history of breaking news stories such as the Hudson River plane crash in January in advance of major news sources.
So, no, it doesn’t appear that Twitter is in eminent danger of being swept into the Google empire. But in Silicon Valley, as we all know, everything’s for sale at the right price.