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April 16th, 2012 GOOGLE none Comments

Threats range from governments trying to control citizens to the rise of Facebook and Apple-style “walled gardens”, says tech billionaire.

The principles of openness and universal access that underpinned the creation of the internet three decades ago are under greater threat than ever, according to Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

In an interview with the Guardian, Brin warned that there were “very powerful forces that have lined up against the open internet on all sides and around the world. I am more worried than I have been in the past . . . it’s scary.”

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He said the threat to the freedom of the internet came from a combination of governments increasingly trying to control access and communication by their citizens, the entertainment industry attempting to crack down on piracy, and the rise of “restrictive” so-called walled gardens such as Facebook and Apple, which tightly controlled what software could be released on their platforms.

Eyes on the future ... Google co-founder Sergey Brin tries a pair of the company's internet-connected glasses at a function in San Francisco earlier this month.
Eyes on the future … Google co-founder Sergey Brin tries a pair of the company’s internet-connected glasses at a function in San Francisco earlier this month.

The 38-year-old billionaire, whose family fled anti-semitism in the Soviet Union, was widely regarded as having been the driving force behind Google’s partial pullout from China in 2010 over concerns about censorship and cyber-attacks.

He said five years ago he did not believe China or any country could effectively restrict the internet for long but he had been proven wrong: “I thought there was no way to put the genie back in the bottle, but now it seems in certain areas the genie has been put back in the bottle.”

Although he said he was most concerned by the efforts of countries such as China, Saudi Arabia and Iran to censor and restrict use of the internet, he also warned that the rise of Facebook and Apple, which have their own proprietary platforms and control access to their users, risked stifling innovation and Balkanising the web.

“There’s a lot to be lost,” he said. “For example all the information in apps – that data is not crawlable by web crawlers. You can’t search it.”

Brin’s criticism of Facebook is likely to be seen as controversial with the social network approaching an estimated $US100 billion flotation. Google’s upstart rival has seen explosive growth, with more than 800 million members worldwide and one in two of all Americans with computer access signed up.
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Brin said he and co-founder Larry Page would not have been able to create Google if the internet was dominated by Facebook. “You have to play by their rules, which are really restrictive. The kind of environment that we developed Google in, the reason that we were able to develop a search engine, is the web was so open. Once you get too many rules that will stifle innovation.”

He also criticised Facebook for not making it easy for users to switch their data to other services. “Facebook has been sucking down Gmail contacts for many years.”

Brin’s comments come amidst an intensifying battle for control of the internet that is being played out across the globe between governments, companies, military strategists, activists and hackers.

From Hollywood’s attempts to pass legislation allowing pirate websites to be shut down, to the British government’s plans to monitor social media and web use, the ethos of openness championed by the pioneers of the internet and world wide web is being challenged on a number of fronts.
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In China, which now has more internet users than any country in the world, the government recently introduced new “real identity” rules in a bid to tame the country’s boisterous micro-blogging scene. In Russia there are powerful calls to rein in a blogosphere that was blamed for fomenting a wave of anti-Putin protests. It has been reported that Iran is planning to introduce a sealed “national internet” from this summer.

Ricken Patel, co-founder of Avaaz, the 14 million-strong online activist network which has been providing communication equipment and training to Syrian activists, echoed Brin’s warning: “We’ve seen a massive attack on the freedom of the web. Governments are realising the power of this medium to organise people and they are trying to clamp down across the world, not just in places like China and North Korea; we’re seeing bills in the United States, in Italy, all across the world.”

The outspoken Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei says the Chinese government’s attempts to control the internet will ultimately be doomed to failure. “In the long run they must understand it’s not possible for them to control the internet unless they shut it off – and they can’t live with the consequences of that.”

Brin said he was not surprised by the effectiveness with which China had so far managed to create a technological barrier against the outside world. “I’m more surprised by the acceptance . . . I had imagined people would be more rebellious.”


Amid mounting concern over the militarisation of the internet and claims (denied by Beijing) that China has mounted numerous cyber-attacks on US military and corporate targets, he said it would be hugely difficult for any government to defend its online “territory”.

“If you compare the internet to the physical world, there really aren’t any walls between countries. If Canada wanted to send tanks into the US there is nothing stopping them and it’s the same on the internet: it’s hopeless to try to control the internet.”

He reserved his harshest words for the entertainment industry, which he said was “shooting itself in the foot, or maybe worse than in the foot” by lobbying for legislation to block sites offering pirate material.

He said the SOPA and PIPA bills championed by Hollywood and the music industry would have led to the US using the same technology and approach it criticised China and Iran for using. The entertainment industry failed to appreciate that people would continue to download pirated content as long as it was easier to acquire and use than legitimately obtained material, he said.

“I haven’t tried it for many years but when you go on a pirate website, you choose what you like, it downloads to the device of your choice and it will just work – and then when you have to jump through all these hoops [to buy legitimate content], the walls created are disincentives for people to buy.”

Brin acknowleged that some people were anxious about the amount of their data that was now in the reach of US authorities because it sits on Google’s servers. He said the company was periodically forced to hand over data and sometimes prevented by legal restrictions from even notifying users that it had done so.

He said: “We push back a lot; we are able to turn down a lot of these requests. We do everything possible to protect the data. If we could wave a magic wand and not be subject to US law, that would be great. If we could be in some magical jurisdiction that everyone in the world trusted, that would be great . . . We’re doing it as well as can be done.”
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Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


News Corp chairman and chief executive Rupert Murdoch has accused internet giant Google of aiding film piracy.

The Australian-born media mogul used his recently activated Twitter account to blast the search engine, branding it a “piracy leader”.

“Piracy leader is Google who streams movies free, sells advts around them,” Murdoch wrote.

A short time later he added to the rant, saying film making was “risky as hell”, with piracy hurting actors and writers.

Murdoch then added: “Google great company doing many exciting things. Only one complaint, and it’s important.

“Just been to google search for mission impossible. Wow, several sites offering free links. I rest my case.”

That was a reference to the latest Tom Cruise movie Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.

The comments were among Murdoch’s most outspoken since launching his Twitter account on January 1.

He’s used the social networking site to pass judgement on a number of subjects, ranging from serious comment on US politics to his own error-prone typing.

“Re complaints about my spelling! Problem is my pathetic typing. Sorry, if anyone really cares,” the media mogul wrote on January 10.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Adopting a new social network like Google+ is taxing enough–re-adding friends, creating “Circles”, adjusting privacy settings, etc.–so learning to navigate can be a bit overwhelming.

Luckily, we did the heavy lifting for you. Here are seven Google+ basics you should learn:

1. Bold, italics, and strikethough. Do you miss the funky fonts and formatting you had in MySpace? Neither do we. Google+, however, gifts you with three simple formatting tricks: *bold*, _italics_, and -strikethough-.

2. Tag friends in posts. Get a friend’s attention in a post by tagging them. Type “+” or “@” followed by their name. You’ll see an autocomplete drop-down menu show up as you type their name, which presumably includes people in your circles and extended circles.

Your friend will be notified they’ve been tagged in a post, and post visibility will automatically be set to just that person. Don’t forget to add more circles and friends (if you want to) before sharing.

3. Use permalinks. Permalinks come in handy for sharing and cleaner viewing of single posts. Just click the timestamp of any post and you’ll be taken to a new page displaying just that post.

4. Quickly share post on Twitter and Facebook. Oh, the irony. To share a post with your Twitter or Facebook network, use the Extended Share for Google Plus Chrome extension. Upon installation, you’ll see a new option (“Send to…”) below each post in your stream.

5. Edit photos. Here’s a nice feature for any on-the-fly photo editing. Go to your photos (accessible via your profile), select a photo. Click “Actions” > Edit photo, and you’ll be presented with several photo filters. Scroll through other photos in the album for consecutive editing.

6. Send a “direct message”. To send a message to just one friend, tag them in the beginning of a post and let them know it’s a private message. Then, comment on the post to establish your own, private thread.

7. Let friends e-mail you from your profile. With this setting, you can let people e-mail you directly from your profile. Head to your profile, then select “Edit profile”.

Below your profile photo, you’ll see a grayed out “Send an email”. Click it, and check “Allow people to email me from a link on my profile”. Then adjust the privacy settings below.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Google is a latecomer to social networking but its new site, Google+, is growing much more rapidly than Facebook, MySpace and Twitter did in their early days, technology experts said.

While Google+ may be the fastest-growing social network ever, it remains to be seen whether it can pose a serious threat to the social networking giant Facebook, which has more than 750 million members.

Andrew Lipsman, vice-president for industry analysis at tracking firm comScore, said Google+, which was launched by the internet search and advertising titan on June 28, had 25 million unique visitors as of July 24.

During a panel discussion on Google+ hosted by Wedbush Securities yesterday, Mr Lipsman said it took other social networks much longer to reach 25 million users: 22 months for MySpace, 33 months for Twitter and 37 months for Facebook.

“Obviously, this is a very strong growth trajectory,” Mr Lipsman said. He cautioned, however, that Google ”has a really large user base it can build off” with its 1 billion users worldwide.

And it still has a “really long way to go to be competitive with Facebook”, he said.

“Google+ is the fastest by a long shot but it’s important to realise that fastest may not always be best,” he said.

“Sometimes, that slow build can lead to a strong network effect that pays long-term dividends.”

Most Google+ users – 6.4 million – are in the USA, followed by 3.6 million in India, 1.1 million in Canada, 1.1 million in Britain and more than 920,000 in Germany, according to comScore.

Mr Lipsman said many Google+ users appear also to be users of Google’s email program Gmail and display a “very strong early adopter profile”.

He said the ratio of men to women was about two to one and that 60 per cent of Google+ users were between the ages of 18 and 34.

In the US, the highest numbers of Google+ users are in the tech-savvy cities of San Francisco and Austin, Texas, he said.

Steve Rubel, executive vice-president for global strategy and insights at public relations firm Edelman, said Facebook was not “vulnerable immediately” to Google.

“I don’t see [Google+] taking significant share from Facebook in the next 18 months,” Mr Rubel said.

At the same time, “what we have seen is that over the years there’s never been a social network or community that has had significant staying power”, he said.

“There’s always a shuffling every two or three years, a changing of the guard.

“We saw it with MySpace,” he said of the one-time social networking leader that has been eclipsed by Facebook and has been haemorrhaging users ever since.

Mr Rubel said Google was compelled to try its hand at social networking because Facebook was restricting the access of its search engine to Facebook content.

“What’s happening is more content is being created behind Facebook’s walls than ever before and a lot of that content is invisible to Google,” he said.

“Conceptually, at least, they’re building kind of an alternate web … There’s also an entire web that is app-based on mobile phones. That is also invisible to them.”

Mr Rubel said it was conceivable that more content would be invisible to them in five or 10 years than what the search engine can see today when created on Facebook or inside apps.

“So they had to make a play to get more people to create content on their site,” he continued. “It’s to get more people to spend time on Google.”

In unveiling Google+, Google stressed the ability it gives users to separate online friends and family into different “circles”, or networks, and to share information only with members of a particular circle.

One of the criticisms of Facebook is that updates are shared with all of one’s friends unless a user has gone through a relatively complicated process to create separate Facebook groups.


Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


A screen shot of the Google Plus social network is shown in this publicity photo. Photo: Google/Reuters

Google, which has been frustrated by a string of failed attempts to crack the social networking market, has introduced a full-fledged social network dubbed Google+. It is the company’s biggest foray into social networking since co-founder Larry Page took over as chief executive in April.

Page has made social networking a top priority at the world’s No. 1 internet search engine, whose position as the main gateway to online information could be at risk as people spend more time on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Another screen shot of the Google Plus social network is shown in this publicity photo.Another screen shot of the Google Plus social network is shown in this publicity photo. Photo: Google/Reuters

“They had the luxury of making mistakes in the past with their social initiatives. They don’t really have that luxury now,” said Ray Valdes, an analyst at research firm Gartner, referring to Google.

“Companies that are successful with the social web will get the page views, they’ll get the engagement and they’ll eventually get the advertising dollars that are so important to Google,” he said.

Google+, now available for testing, is structured in remarkably similar fashion to Facebook, with profile pictures and newsfeeds forming a central core. However, a user’s friends or contacts are grouped into very specific circles of their choosing, versus the common pool of friends typical on Facebook. ( http://blogs.reuters.com/mediafile/2011/06/28/first-look-at-the-google-plus-social-network-the-top-secret-demo/ )

Enticing consumers to join another social networking service will not be easy, said Rory Maher, an analyst with Hudson Square Research.

“They’re going to have an uphill battle due to Facebook’s network effects,” said Maher, citing the 700 million users that some research firms say are currently on Facebook’s service.

“The more users they [Facebook] get, the harder it gets for Google to steal those,” he said. But he added that Google’s popularity in web search and email could help it gain a following.

To set its service apart from Facebook, Google is betting on what it says is a better approach to privacy – a hot-button issue that has burned Facebook, as well as Google, in the past.

Central to Google+ are the “circles” of friends and acquaintances. Users can organise contacts into different customized circles – family members, coworkers, college friends – and share photos, videos or other information only within those groups.

“In the online world there’s this ‘share box’ and you type into it and you have no idea who is going to get that, or where it’s going to land, or how it’s going to embarrass you six months from now,” said Google vice president of product management Bradley Horowitz.

“For us, privacy isn’t buried six panels deep,” he added.

Facebook, which has been criticised for its confusing privacy controls, introduced a feature last year that lets users create smaller groups of friends. Google, without mentioning Facebook by name, said other social networking services’ attempts to create groups have been “bolt-on” efforts that do not work as well.

Facebook, in an emailed statement, said “we’re in the early days of making the web more social, and there are opportunities for innovation everywhere.”

Google+ started rolling out to a limited number of users yesterday in what the company is calling a field trial. Only those invited to join will initially be able to use the service. Google did not say when it would be more widely available.

Google, which generated roughly $US29 billion in revenue in 2010, said the new service does not currently feature advertising.

Learning from Buzz

Google’s stock has been pressured by concerns about rising spending within the company and increasing regulatory scrutiny – not to mention its struggles with social networking. The US Federal Trade Commission, among others, is currently reviewing its business practices.

Its shares are down almost 20 per cent this year after underperforming the market in 2010.

To create Google+, the company went back to the drawing board in the wake of several notable failures, including Google Wave and Google Buzz, a microblogging service whose launch was marred by privacy snafus.

“We learned a lot in Buzz, and one of the things we learned is that there’s a real market opportunity for a product that addresses people’s concerns around privacy and how their information is shared,” said Horowitz.

Google drew more than 1 billion visitors worldwide to its websites in May, more than any other company, according to web analytics firm comScore. But people are spending more time on Facebook: The average US visitor spent 375 minutes per month on Facebook in May, compared with 231 minutes for Google.

Google+ seems designed to make its online properties a pervasive part of the daily online experience, rather than being spots where web surfers occasionally check in to search for a website or check email.

As with Facebook’s service, Google Plus has a central web page that displays an ever-updating stream of the comments, photos and links being shared by friends and contacts.

A toolbar across the top of most of Google’s sites – such as its main search page, its Gmail site and its Maps site – allows users to access their personalised data feed. They can then contribute their own information to the stream.

The company has combined the Facebook and Twitter models of social networking in Google+: a person can have friends in their network with whom they share information and they can also follow certain people, say a movie critic, as occurs on Twitter.

Google+ will also offer a special video chat feature, in which up to 10 people can jump on a conference call. And Google will automatically store photos taken on mobile phones on its internet servers, allowing a Google+ user to access the photos from any computer and share them.

When asked whether he expected people to switch from Facebook to Google+, Google senior vice president of engineering Vic Gundotra said people may decide to use both.

“People today use multiple tools. I think what we’re offering here offers some very distinct advantages around some basic needs,” he said.

Reuters.. Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Facebook tops Google

as most visited site in U.S.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at a news conference where he unveiled a new Facebook messaging system in San Francisco, California November 15, 2010. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at a news conference where he revealed a new Facebook messag system in San Francisco, California November 15, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith

NEW YORK | Thu Dec 30, 2010 6:34pm EST

(Reuters) – Facebook blitzed Google for the first time as the most visited website in the United States for most of 2010.

The social network site edged out Google.com with 8.9 percent of all U.S. visits between January and November 2010, while Google.com ranked 2nd with about 7.2 percent of all visits, according to online analysis service Experian Hitwise.

Facebook’s rise to the top spot shows just how quickly the site has grown in popularity. Within the span of six years, Facebook has become the world’s largest Web social network with roughly half a billion users worldwide.

Google.com dominated the top spot as the most visited website in the USA in 2009 and 2008. News Corp’s MySpace was the No. 1 visited website in 2007. It is now ranked No. 7.

However, when all of Google’s properties are considered — such as YouTube and email, as an example — Google still reigns as the most visited site at 9.9 percent between January and November 2010. Facebook follows at 8.9 percent. Yahoo and all of its properties ranked third at 8.1 percent.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

December 31st, 2010 FACEBOOK, GOOGLE none Comments

Look out Google,

Facebook’s the ‘second internet’

December 30, 2010
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: AP

Google’s supremacy is being challenged by facebook on the internet with a radically different approach to how people live, work, play and search online.

Where Google delivers search results selected by algorithms that take into account the user’s web history, Facebook emphasizes  a richer level of personalisation based on one’s own “likes” and the recommendations from Facebook friends.

Mark Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook in his Harvard University dorm room six years ago and is now worth an estimated $US6.9 billion, refers to it as the “social graph.”

“I think what we’ve found is that when you can use products with your friends and your family as well as the people you care about they tend to be more engaging,” Zuckerberg said in an interview with the CBS show 60 Minutes.

“The social graph is incredibly broad,” said Wedbush Securities social media analyst Lou Kerner, picking up on Zuckerberg’s favorite phrase. “It includes not only what you do and what you like but people you know and what they like and the companies you interact with.”

For some internet watchers like Kerner, Facebook is constructing a parallel network built around the interactions of its more than 500 million members.

“I refer to Facebook as the second internet, maybe more valuable than the first because we’re all interconnected on it,” Kerner told AFP.

“Social media is an increasingly important part of how you reach people and it’s a growing part of every marketer’s budget,” he said.

“The idea is you do not want to fight Facebook, you want to embrace Facebook and leverage Facebook because this is where people are going to spend increasing amounts of time,” he said.

According to online tracking firm comScore, Google receives more unique monthly visitors than Facebook but visitors to Facebook spend more time at the site than they do on Google properties.

Since early 2010, Facebook has been rolling out features which put it on a collision course with Google – an @facebook.com email service which competes with Google’s Gmail and “Facebook Questions,” a search engine of sorts which lets Facebook members ask questions and get answers from other members.

Facebook has also been facing off with Google on the hiring front, forcing the Mountain View, California-based Google to recently raise salaries by 10 per cent across the board.

“They’ve become competitive in some areas, but it’s not that Facebook has grown at Google’s expense or that Facebook is growing and Google is shrinking,” said Danny Sullivan, editor of technology blog SearchEngineLand.com.

“Google is not going away,” agreed Kerner. “Google, in fact, I think is going to benefit from the emergence of social media.

“Because what it’s doing is it’s driving people to spend more time online and when you?re spending more time online, you end up doing more searches,” he said.

“Where they’ve really been encroaching on each other more is in the display space,” Sullivan said. “Facebook has a lot of people who buy display advertising. Google wants to sell more display advertising.”

Sullivan also said Google “has been trying to encroach on their social area, but they haven’t been very successful.”

Zuckerberg, who was named earlier this month as the Time magazine person of the year, acknowledged to CBS “there are areas where the companies compete.”

“But then, there are all these areas where we just don’t compete at all,” he said.

Time managing editor Richard Stengel said Zuckerberg – the second youngest person named to the cover of Time’s ritual annual issue – and his social networking service were “transforming the way we live our lives every day.”

Facebook’s growth is not necessarily a bad thing for Google, which has been coming under increased scrutiny from anti-trust authorities in both the United States and Europe.

“Some of it plays very well for Google,” Sullivan said. “Google is able to say, ‘You know, we have this stiff competition out there.’

“It’s not necessarily to Google’s disadvantage that Facebook is growing.”

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha