Archive for January, 2006

Google and Censorship

January 31, 2006

Do you believe #1- Google was right in entering the Chinese market but should have ignored the Chinese government’s demands to censor search results (the “ugly American” theory), or do you think #2- Google should never have entered the Chinese market?

If you agree with #1 (which I sincerely doubt):
You’re sadly mistaken. A single company simply cannot ignore the control that the Chinese government has, or try to change their policies. Philipp Lenssen writes, “People opposing the Google decision don’t ask Google to crusade against the Chinese gov’t – people are asking from Google to *not actively partner with the Chinese government*. There’s an important difference here.” And the difference is very important. If you are jumping on the Google-is-evil bandwagon, please at least do a little thinking and stop believing in this overreactive idea. At least be somewhat reasonable and go to #2.

If you agree with #2:
So you think Google should not have entered the Chinese market. Are you saying this choice is what Google should do to best serve those in China? Or are you saying this choice is what Google should do to best serve you, as an American?

If you’re saying that this choice benefits those in China (which I sincerely doubt), you’re mistaken again. All of the other big search engine companies that matter have agreed to comply with the Chinese government and as a result are censoring results. You use Google because you believe it to be the best search engine. It’s fair to say that a censored Google Search is superior to a censored MSN or Yahoo! Search. So how does denying China of a superior search engine benefit them? This obviously doesn’t make sense. You should believe the alternative. If Google would’ve stayed out of China, it would benefit you, as an American:

You believe Google should have stayed out of China to benefit you, as an American. Google is evil because they used to stand for freedom of speech, and they’ve betrayed your trust. You used to view Google as an authority. If you wanted to know the answer to any question, you could Googlit and it would help you find the answer.

But now, you can’t trust Google’s response. For some reason, you believe that Google will censor results in America! You’re afraid of being deceived. You can’t trust someone or something that has deceived you in the past. And since Google is censoring results in China, you can’t trust it to give uncensored results in America.

This is why your logic is flawed. Google is not attempting to deceive anyone. You’ll notice that they’re willing to put up a notice when they remove search results. From their Help Center:

“When we remove search results for these reasons, we display a notice on our search results pages. Please note: For some older removals (before March 2005), we may not show a notice at this time.”

For an example of a Google China search where Google shows this notice, see this translated page for a search for tiananmen square massacre.

Again, I suggest that Google’s plan here is not to deceive anyone. It’s completely overreactive to believe that they’re purposefully trying to deceive. However, I think Google could do a better job at making it clear when search results have been removed. My suggestion is this:

When search results are removed, instead of a notice to the user to inform them of the modification, don’t display ANY search results at all. Instead, respond with a notice that the search was denied AND name the purpose for which they were denied. Something along the lines of, “This search cannot be completed because of local laws, regulations, or policies.” This would serve two purposes. It would make those of you who feel betrayed by Google more comfortable (you of little faith!), and it would be a subtle (probably not subtle enough :-D) rub against the Chinese government’s policy of censorship. If Google is forced to censor search results in any country, we deserve to know unmistakably that some results were removed and why.

UPDATE: The translated page for [tiananmen square massacre] doesn’t have the notice anymore. Strange. . . .

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Google Local Mobile for T-Mobile

January 24, 2006

Google Local Mobile‘s page layout has changed. Before, you were required to first pick your service provider, then pick the brand of your phone secondly. Now, you don’t pick your service provider at all.

Maybe there is hope for Google Local Mobile coming to T-MobileWeb (formally T-Zones) after all.

Google Book Search

January 15, 2006

On Thursday November 17th 2005, there was a debate at the New York Public Library about Google Book Search (formally known as Google Print). You can read more on that here.

One of the two debaters in favor of Google, Lawrence Lessig, has created a video outlining his argument and the opposition’s argument. You can see that video here (about 30 minutes).

After watching this video, it seems to me that there is a fundamental question that needs to be addressed. Will Google Book Search be used as a substitute for the original works? My favorite quote (and others have agreed) is this one from John Battelle’s search blog:

Mr. Adler (AAP lawyer) said Google’s contention that its search program might somehow increase sales of books was speculation at best.

“When people make inquiries using Google’s search engine and they come up with references to books, they are just as likely to come to this fine institution to look up those references as they are to buy them,” he said, referring to the Public Library.

To which Google’s Mr. Drummond replied, “Horrors.”

Now, I don’t know if Mr. Drummond was avoiding the comment or what, but it’s crucial. If people will use Google Book Search as an alternative to buying the books that are under copyright, there is something fundamentally unfair with the Book Search program.

Google Book Search is a lot like Google’s other search services, like its Image Search and even its Web Search. Some have argued that Google is becoming just that: an answer engine that gives people that which they seek, as opposed to a search engine that tells people where to find that which they seek.

On January 9th 2006, Jakob Nielsen blogged about the idea that,

“people have begun using search engines as answer engines to directly access what they want — often without truly engaging with the websites that provide (and pay for) the services.”

That very same day, Danny Sullivan responded to Jakob Nielsen’s blog post, arguing that search engines, especially Google’s, drive large amounts of traffic to sites. Danny wrote:

If suddenly every site on the web were to block Google from indexing them, Google would have a crisis in short order. Its main “content” would have gone away, and the ads alone aren’t going to keep attracting searchers.

Web site owners have not done that, however. That’s because by and large, they’ve found that search engines drive more traffic to them than they cost in terms of bandwidth of being indexed.

WebmasterWorld has become a classic case study of this. Google and other search engines were banned in November along with “rogue” spiders, because somewhat similar to Jakob’s “leech” metaphor, they were seen to have been sucking down more bandwidth than it was worth supporting.

WebmasterWorld founder Brett Tabke was often quoted saying he had the best sleep in months after blocking the spiders. His sleep may have improved, but what to do about the major spiders didn’t go away. By the end of December, Brett had done a 180 degree turn and let the major spiders back in.

It’s interesting to see more content on the debate and struggle that Google is going through. I look forward to reading a response from Jakob Nielsen.

What do you think?

UPDATE: Brian Dear responded to Lessig’s video here.

First Attempt at Java Web Start

January 10, 2006

For my first experiment with Java Web Start (JWS) , I decided to make a game. I named it Rush25, because you rush to place twenty-five cards into a 5×5 grid. You want to make 12 poker hands — one for each of the five rows, one for each of the five columns, and one for each of the two diagonals.

This game was beneficial to do as a learning experiment with JWS because it requires tackling two differences between JWS programming and regular Java programming: how to use images, and how to connect to a database. For a moment during the programming, it seemed impossible to write a program that both connected to a database and used images. But I overcame the two hurdles. More on this later.

The game can be found in the Works in Progress section of my site and a direct link is here, but before you play, you need the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) installed. You might already have it, but if you don’t, make sure to download it and then install it.

Google Calendar

January 9, 2006

What ever happened to Google Calendar? There were several occasions when a rumor surfaced regarding the calendar’s release date but they’ve all stopped. Do you think Google waiting for an opportune time to make the already-finished calendar available? Or do you think it’s still not ready to be released?

Assuming it will be Beta when it is first released (do you think that’s a safe assumption?), it seems unlikely that the calendar isn’t ready for Beta. This leads me to believe that the calendar simply isn’t ready yet. I also thought an opportune time for it to become available was on December 30th or on January 1st– just in time for the new year. I think it would be very Google-like to release the calendar back then if it was ready. Another reason that leads me to believe that it simply isn’t ready.

Yahoo and Microsoft are almost certainly working on an Ajax calendar to compete with the one that Google is creating. Maybe Google is waiting to release it to gain some leverage against the competition in some way.

What do you think? Does anyone think the calendar is ready, but Google is holding out for a certain opportunity?

Google/Dell personalized homepage

January 7, 2006

If you look at the Dell Start Page, a Google/Dell personalized homepage, you’ll see a module called “My Dell.” Looks like Dell wrote their own Google Module. That’s pretty neat if you ask me. Not because it’s terribly difficult to write a Google Module, but because they’re one of the first companies I’ve seen to have a webpage based on google.com/ig. At time of posting, I only know of two: Dell, and Current Communications.

Interestingly, to personalize the Dell Start Page, you must sign in with a Google account, but to personalize the Current Communications Start Page, you must sign in with a Current account. The Current sign-in page looks awfully familiar:


What other companies have a personalized homepage? Who will get one in the future?

Was Google’s rumored $200 PC completely fiction?

January 7, 2006

Rumor had it that Google would reveal their plans to sell an inexpensive PC in Wal-Mart stores. According to The Register, Wal-Mart labeled the suggestion “a rumor without any truth to it at all.”

According to several sources, including C|Net, Google’s statement was “We have many PC partners who serve their markets exceedingly well, and we see no need to enter that market; we would rather partner with great companies.”

Many people seem to have drawn a conclusion from these two statements: Google is not planning to sell a PC. To me, the truth seems quite the contrary. My prediction is that Google will go through Dell and/or HP to sell its inexpensive PCs. “We would rather partner with great companies.” Am I putting too much emphasis on that phrase? Maybe, but only time will tell.

UPDATE: Check out this Google/Dell personalized homepage. Is this the default homepage on new Dell PCs?

Google Pack

January 6, 2006

The Google Pack, discussed in detail here is receiving LOTS of attention. My thoughts on this idea are pro-Google. Here’s why.

Google is in the business of connecting people with what they want. Usually it’s information (search) but sometimes it’s something else (directions with Google Maps, products with Froogle etc).

Not only do they connect users with what they want, they make it a point to give users only that. They don’t want you to be stuck with something you don’t want. They give you what you want, no strings attached. If you read their Software Principles, you’ll see a section called titled Keeping Good Company. They devoted a section to the idea of “not giving you stuff you don’t want.”

Look at Google.com. It has a simple and basic layout. If you want more, you can go to google.com/ig and personalize the Google page. All of their pages have a similar feel to them: Lots of content. Not a bunch of fluff.

If this package bundle comes out (which in my opinion is very likely), it seems clear to me that they will follow their historically consistent philosophy.

What is Google Doing?

January 6, 2006
Friday has finally come and Larry Page is set to speak at CES in just 40 minutes. Google Blogoscoped‘s comments page on Google’s upcoming Google Pack software bundle is running rampant. Questions questions questions, and so few answers!

The truth is, Google is doing many things today that leave the world in suspense. For example: Why would Google make a deal with Wal-Mart to sell PCs for $200? It doesn’t make sense to do that because “profit margins are bad enough in the PC business,” says Cringely. Why would Google want to offer free Wi-Fi to an entire city? Why would Google purchase several computers and put them in Heathrow Airport?

Let me ask you this: If you owned 70% of all gas stations in the world, and you could give away cheap cars to anyone willing to take them, would you do it?

This is essentially what Google is doing. Anybody who uses a computer today, uses the Internet. Anybody who uses the Internet uses Google. And when you use Google, Google makes money through advertising. Spend a few dollars one time to buy a few computers, and then wait until you’ve made that money back. How long could that take? Regardless, everything Google makes after that is profit. The subscription model usually generates more profit than the purchase model. . . .

The more webpages there are, the more real estate Google has to provide ads. The more real estate Google has to provide ads, the more profit it makes. Google wants everyone to have a computer and to have Internet access because it profits them!

Does this make Google selfish and greedy? No! They’re connecting the world’s producers to the world’s consumers, just like eBay. I want targeted ads in my Inbox to recommend products that I’m likely to buy. Don’t you?

As for 2006 and the future beyond, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Page speaks at CES in 15 minutes. Let’s just hope whatever is revealed lives up to all the hype.

CES news on Engadget

January 6, 2006

For CES 2006 coverage go here .