Google extends personalization options

iGoogle home page 

Google users will soon be able to display news, photos, lists and tools on their personal iGoogle home page, meaning  the famously minimalist search page could evolve into something like that pictured above.

It’s sort of like NetVibes, but with an abundance of widgets to help users add Google products including YouTube, GMail, Maps, and the instant-messaging service GoogleTalk.

As well, Google says it will extend the home page personalization features introduced in 2004, and the optional web-surfing history introduced last week, to deliver a personalized homepage and search results reflecting a user’s location and interests.

Advertising news coverage makes sense

Google Search - 3pm EDT April 17, 2007

As a little experiment yesterday afternoon, I put the words “shooting at virginia tech” into the Google search engine. And I wasn’t surprised to see that three paid search results (based on Google’s AdWords system) popped up on top.

You can see the results above (I have edited the image slightly in order to make it more compact than on my high-resolution monitor but the essential layout is unchanged).

The premium paid result spot was occupied by the New York Times. Then there were two paid sidebar results, one by a company that wants you to download a news toolbar (no thanks!) and the other from a website called the First Post.

Then there were three “natural” search results from Google News, followed by the natural search results from Google’s regular index of web pages (not shown in my screenshot).

Blogger Tod Maffin says it’s “sick” that companies bought AdWords in the wake of such a tragedy, but I disagree – at least in the case of the media companies. Broadcasters and publishers often buy offline advertising to tell you about their news coverage (e.g. television stations advertising on afternoon radio or newspapers advertising on evening TV).

And in this case, the NY Times paid search result may have performed a valuable service, because the first natural search result (again, not shown on my screenshot) was actually to a news story headlined Shooting suspect caught in Blacksburg (huh?!). That story turned out to be eight months old.

Activists sue Viacom over removal of YouTube video

It must be a wonderful time to be a copyright lawyer.

Just a week after Viacom began suing YouTube and its parent Google, alleging copyright infringment, two activist groups have launched a suit against Viacom, claiming that the cable network had no right to ask YouTube to remove a parody video which used portions of Viacom’s Colbert Report.

The activists say their use of Colbert was permitted under “fair use” provisions of copyright legislation. Viacom says it did not request removal of the video from YouTube and has no problem with it staying on YouTube.

It’s unclear whether the video was, in fact, ever removed from YouTube. It’s on the site now.

I can’t quite figure out its purpose though. The Colbert Report is already a parody. It’s sharp, funny and it’s a hit. The activists’ video, by comparision, just makes them look like they don’t get the joke.

Ganging up against YouTube

NBC and News Corp say they’ll supply video content, with commercials, to be distributed by MySpace, Yahoo, MSN and AOL. The new service is to be launched in a few months.

Apparently people will prefer this to watching the same content, without commercials, on YouTube. Or, if Viacom succeeds in its lawsuit, YouTube will be prevented from carrying the networks’ content.

Wendy Davis at MediaPost reports:

…shows that will be available via the joint venture include “Heroes,” “24,” “House,” “Saturday Night Live,” and “The Simpsons.” Movies slated for free distribution include “Borat,” “Little Miss Sunshine” and “The Devil Wears Prada.” Cadbury Schweppes, Cisco, Esurance, Intel Corporation and General Motors have signed on as charter advertisers.

Could this be an attractive alternative to YouTube for the consumer? I think so. There’s certainly room to improve the user experience on YouTube, e.g. in terms of picture size, and searchability.

Viral video creator unrepentant

The creator of the “1984” mash-up video, which promotes US presidential hopeful Sen Barack Obama by attacking his rival Sen Hillary Clinton, was an employee of the firm that designed the Obama website.

Philip de Vellis, a strategist with Blue State Digital had his employment “terminated” after learning he was about to be unmasked by the Huffington Post. He then defended his actions in a posting on the blog.

Continue reading

Search, it’s what we do online

Search engine Google is the most popular website among New Zealanders, and by a healthy margin, according to the latest data from web tracking service Hitwise.

Google has three sites in the top 20 list, based on market share of visits by New Zealanders, giving it a combined share of almost eleven per cent of all website visits in February. If one were to include visits to Wikipedia (a searchable encyclopedia) then the search category market share would be even higher, at 11.6 per cent.

Continue reading

Privacy or PR in Google announcement?

Is Google serious about protecting your privacy?

Mark Simon at Search Insider points out that Google’s announcement last week – that it will edit user records within two years of each search to remove the last eight bits of each user’s IP address – isn’t quite the same as full anonymity. It just narrows down the number of computers that might have made a particular search to 256.

I’m not thrilled about the possibility of being one of 256 computer users being investigated by the FBI over a search made by somebody who just happens to share part of my IP address. Ironically, if Google won’t delete the entire record, then it might be better to keep the full IP address.

Continue reading

Viacom sues YouTube and Google for US$1 billion

Just six weeks after it demanded that Google remove all Viacom content from its YouTube video sharing site, Viacom has decided to take the dispute to court.

The company behind such hit TV shows as The Colbert Report and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has filed a lawsuit against YouTube and Google, alleging deliberate copyright infringement and seeking US$1 billion in compensation.

Last Saturday, Variety published an interesting look at the disconnect within Hollywood between marketers who promote their shows using YouTube and their studio legal departments who try to get content removed from the site.