Google has developed a new indexing plan that marks a shift in its traditionally passive approach.
“Mind what you say in Facebook comments,” reports Wired, “Google will soon be indexing them and serving them up as part of the company’s standard search results.”
“Google’s all-seeing search robots still can’t find comments on private pages within Facebook, but now any time you use a Facebook comment form on other sites, or a public page within Facebook, those comments will be indexed by Google.”
The article suggests the new policy may upset developers and users alike.
“There are two primary requests you can initiate on the Web,” explains Wired. “GET requests are intended for reading data, POST for changing or adding data. That’s why search engine robots like Google’s have always stuck to GET crawling. There’s no danger of the Googlebot altering a site’s data with GET, it just reads the page, without ever touching the actual data. Now that Google is crawling POST pages the Googlebot is no longer a passive observer, it’s actually interacting with — and potentially altering — the websites it crawls.”
Twitter quietly added new features to its interface recently, designed to help users easily search relevant content.
“Twitter’s website now includes a featured ‘Top News’ section at the top of search results to showcase relevant recent news articles about a certain topic,” reports GigaOM. “The site also has a new ‘Top People’ window that similarly showcases Twitter users that correspond with search queries.”
Twitter is quietly testing the new features on some of its users.
“It’s a nice move for Twitter, which has been working to position itself as a place for people to consume all kinds of news,” suggests the post. “Twitter has established itself as a great platform for crowdsourced information and citizen journalism, but these new features should help to make the site equally useful for finding stuff from traditional content producers such as news organizations.”
In an effort to strengthen its counterterrorism and counterproliferation measures, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency actively monitors over 5 million of the 140 million tweets posted daily.
The CIA monitors Twitter and Facebook daily, regularly briefing President Obama on popular posts and trends.
The McLean, Virginia-based monitoring team — called the “Vengeful Librarians” — tracks news and social media sources, using language to pinpoint origin.
“The CIA team has also used Twitter to monitor reports of real-time events, and can focus on a few Tweeters who are publishing accurate reports,” reports Digital Trends. “The team found that, in these situations, other Twitter users actively stamp out erroneous information when it is reported, which proves the usefulness of Twitter as a primary source for breaking news.”
In a study conducted by the University of British Columbia Vancouver, 102 bots controlled fake Facebook accounts to send friend requests at random, showing that one in five people were willing to accept requests from strangers.
“If that complete stranger had a mutual friend in common, the success rate went up to about 60 percent,” reports Ars Technica.
Once friends, the bots had access to a large amount of personal information: “…for people directly friended by the bots, availability of e-mail went from 2.4 percent (unfriended) to 71.8 (friended) and postal addresses from 0.9 percent to 19.0 percent.” The bots also gained information about the users’ friends.
The study raises interesting points regarding Facebook’s efforts to create privacy and control. “The site has been criticized for making it too hard to secure personal data, and be too liberal with its default policies,” suggest the article. “In response to these criticisms, it has made the privacy and security system easier to use and with more sensible defaults. But these controls are irrelevant if people are willing to add random bots, and hence give away access to their ‘friends-only’ private information.”
Viacom’s NextMovie.com has attracted more than one million viewers in its first 12 months, according to comScore. This week the site will add MovieTracker, developed with social intelligence platform Trendrr.
The new add-on is designed to track and quantify related social activity by ranking “the top 25 films according to social buzz for movies in production, coming soon or in theaters,” indicates The Hollywood Reporter.
“There isn’t really another product quite like this for movie fans,” explains VP and general manager of NextMovie Scott Robson. “The MovieTracker isn’t based on box office performance, which is how most movie rankings are compiled. Instead, it’s driven purely by the social conversation around movies. It’s the first time that what movie fans say — on Twitter, on Facebook and in the blogosphere — really matters in a quantified way.”
The feature is expected to be available early next year as an app for iOS and Android, allowing mobile access.
“The MovieTracker will launch initially on NextMovie.com, but it will appear soon after across multiple Viacom Media Networks properties, including MTV.com, VH1.com and the Logo sites,” says Robson. “It’s also possible that versions of the MovieTracker at some point will appear on air, on the MTV Radio Network and more.”
There was a time when Apple was a consumer electronics company, Google was a search engine, Amazon was an online retailer and Facebook a place to connect with friends. Now each of these companies is growing into the space of the others as they compete for new and expanding markets in mobile, social and cloud services.
Amazon’s upcoming Kindle Fire tablet will compete directly with Apple’s iPad. Google+ has taken on Facebook. Android and iOS are direct competitors. And Facebook has been considering its own mobile phone while it also looks to offer content, advertising and retail services.
Fast Company analyzes the “future of the innovation economy” in this regard, with a particular emphasis on the inevitable war and its major players.
“Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google will not last forever,” the article suggests. “But despite this oncoming war, in which attacking one another becomes standard operating practice, their inevitable slide into irrelevancy likely won’t be at the hands of one of their fellow rivals. As always, the real future of tech belongs to some smart-ass kid in a Palo Alto garage.”
Google’s music download store is expected to link with Google+ within the next two weeks. However, the service may prove disappointing if the company cannot secure deals with the four major music labels.
Tentatively named Google Music, the service would follow in the footsteps of Spotify, which earlier this fall linked with Facebook to promote its music service.
The Google+ integration would allow users to recommend songs to Google+ contacts, who could then listen to those songs once for free. MP3 downloads would then be available, most likely for 99 cents each.
Music labels have shown hesitation about the service’s propensity to allow piracy, in addition to the lack of revenue for record companies, as the music locker is free.
The number of Americans who use social networks has grown 37 percent over the past year, according to comScore.
In August for example, 72.2 million Americans accessed social sites or blogs via mobile devices.
“Nearly 40 million U.S. mobile phone users, which accounts for more than half of the mobile social media audience, use social sites while on the go nearly every day,” reports Computerworld. “As a result, mobile devices are an increasingly important part of the burgeoning social media market.”
The new comScore study also indicates the number of mobile users who accessed Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn increased by at least 50 percent for each service in the past year.
“It might sound crazy, but I think there’s an argument that Facebook could become a leading enterprise software vendor for the webscale world if the social-networking kingpin is so inclined,” writes Derrick Harris for GigaOM.
“As we continue to consume web applications and cloud services and webscale data centers become more common,” he adds, “Facebook’s tools and expertise could be a cash cow.”
The article details a few examples of new tools and systems Facebook has integrated to manage its massive infrastructure.
“Facebook could stand to make a lot of money by consulting with customers on how to build their data centers and architect their applications, and then selling them the software tools to keep those apps up and running,” writes Harris, also noting there is no indication that Facebook will ever pursue selling webscale software.
The Hollywood Reporter suggests that Google+ may be losing momentum in its foray into social networking, citing data analytics from Chitika recently published in The Next Web. Facebook and Twitter are currently maintaining dominance in the social space.
“Our monthly referrals from there are down 38 percent since their peak, while Facebook referrals are up 67 percent and Twitter referrals up 51 percent over the same period,” reports TNW.
After Google+ attracted 10 million users in less than a month, expectations rose. But according to Chitika, Google+’s initial spike in traffic was short lived, leveling off just four days after its launch.
As one Google engineer stated on his Google+ page, the social network is “a prime example of our complete failure to understand platforms” and “a knee-jerk reaction” to Facebook.
“Bottom line: Facebook is still the king of social networks and will be for the foreseeable future,” adds THR. “Plan your marketing campaigns accordingly.”
In a related post from Gizmodo, Google+ claims 40 million “users” — but the question remains regarding how many are actually using it: “‘Users’ here, being loosely defined, since Google+ is a relative ghost town of privately shared links about how Google+ is a ghost town.”
Facebook launched its Open Compute Project as an effort to open-source the technology of its 147,000-square-foot data center that opened in Oregon in April.
“It published blueprints for everything from the power supplies of its computers to the super-efficient cooling system of the building,” reports MIT’s Technology Review. “Other companies are now cherry-picking ideas from those designs to cut the costs of building similar facilities for cloud computing.”
Although the concept of sharing designs and allowing other companies to build similar cloud-computing facilities at a lower cost may seem altruistic, it also serves as “an attempt to manipulate the market for large-scale computing infrastructure in Facebook’s favor,” suggests the article.
“The company hopes to encourage hardware suppliers to adopt its designs widely, which could in turn drive down the cost of the server computers that deal with the growing mountain of photos and messages posted by its 750 million users,” explains Technology Review. “Just six months after the project’s debut, there are signs that the strategy is working and that it will lower the costs of building — and hence using — cloud computing infrastructure for other businesses, too.”
Frank Frankovsky, Facebook’s technical operations director and a founding member of the Open Compute Project, notes that the project opens the flow of ideas necessary to improve cloud technology. He is encouraging others to contribute new ideas and improvements to the current designs.
In the wake of Google’s announcement last week regarding new real-time analytics, Facebook is introducing changes to Insights, its marketing product.
A new feature called “people talking about” combines all the stories generated about the brand — Likes, comments, tags, etc. — across Facebook, and provides a raw number to gauge overall buzz.
Also new, Premium ads serve stories generated by a brand to fans’ friends. This ad unit isn’t currently available on the self-serve ad platform, so most likely won’t be accessible for those brands with a smaller budget.
The obsession with the number of Likes on Pages will likely decline. “Now brands will be judged not just by how many Likes they have, but through their talkability,” suggests The Next Web, as the new number generated by Insights becomes public.
France recently banned TV and radio show hosts from naming Facebook, Twitter, or other specific sites unless directly referencing a news story involving the companies. The regulation was created to reduce bias for the popular social networks over other striving, lesser known sites.
Apple’s iTunes has benefitted from the phrase “Now available on iTunes” commonly tacked onto advertisements where it was previously customary to simply say “Now available in all good music stores” — which could today be updated to say “online music stores” in order to include other music providers.
Additionally, the phrase “Now available on Amazon.com” has become standard for book promotions, which basically provides free advertisement for the site while ignoring other providers.
Similarly, “Follow us on Twitter” and “Like us on Facebook” have dominated commerce. “Social networks only work when people use the same ones. In other words, they naturally lend themselves to being monopolized,” suggests The Next Web.
Some brand names have now become part of everyday language. Google, for example, has grown so popular that it is commonly used as a verb when describing the act of searching online. TiVo is also regularly used as verb, and sometimes replaces “DVR” in conversation.
The article casts doubt on the actual effects regulation would have on social media monopolies: “…users will typically go where all the action is taking place.”
“The Internet isn’t a monopoly though. It’s an oligopoly consisting of multiple monopolies from different digital industries, and the reason this is happening really isn’t all that complicated,” adds The Next Web. “Success breeds success, something which underpins most monopolies, whether we’re talking about dominant languages, biological species or, indeed, Internet technology companies. Hegemony stems from success, and it’s certainly not unique to the Internet age.”
In a recent GigaOM article, Matthew Ingram provides a compelling alternative viewpoint to the recently publicized complaints regarding Facebook’s philosophy of “frictionless sharing.”
The concept — which essentially allows apps and online publishers to post a user’s activity to their wall without permission — has raised a legitimate concern in terms of whether the feature is a worthwhile addition or an invasion of privacy.
“Consumer advocacy groups such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center are arguing the latter, and have even asked the government to step in, while some users have deleted their Facebook accounts in protest,” reports Ingram. “But there’s an argument to be made that Facebook isn’t forcing anyone to share; it’s simply adapting to the increasingly social way that we are living our lives online.”
While it’s easy to see the concerns regarding privacy, there are clear benefits to this type of sharing. Ticker, for example, can often provide “serendipitous experiences” such as finding interesting music, video clips, or articles based on the activity of friends. “It also fits right in with the concept that underlies Facebook and most social networking,” suggests the article, “which is what user-interface designer Leisa Reichelt has called ‘ambient intimacy’: the idea that there’s something to be gained by having transient and lightweight connections to people in your life.”
The article points out that the news feed was also originally heavily criticized when it launched in 2006, but eventually became immensely popular.
Zuckerberg’s “law of social sharing,” which notes that the amount of data people share doubles each year, is a “good predictor of what people will do, regardless of what they say they will do or how much they criticize features like frictionless sharing from social apps.”
“And soon, the idea that apps are sharing a continuous stream of our activity will seem just as commonplace and uncontroversial as the original news feed,” contends Ingram.
The article argues that “social sharing online isn’t going away any time soon; it’s not just the core of Facebook, but the organizing principle of the modern Web — Facebook is just a symptom of that change, not the cause.”