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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Google replants its garage roots in tech workshops

Associated Press
April 26, 2011

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – Amid all the free food and other goodies that come with a job at Google Inc., there's one benefit a lot of employees don't even know about: a cluster of high-tech workshops that have become a tinkerer's paradise.

Workers escape from their computer screens and office chairs to weld, drill and saw on expensive machinery they won't find at Home Depot.

Google replants its garage roots in tech workshops.

Besides building contraptions with a clear business purpose, Google employees use the shops for fun: They create elaborate holiday decorations, build cabinets for their homes and sometimes dream big like the engineers working on a pedal-powered airplane with a 100-foot wingspan.

The "Google Workshops" are the handiwork of Larry Page, who co-founded Google with Sergey Brin in a rented garage. Page authorized the workshops' opening in 2007 to try to reconnect the company with its roots.

Google, which has kept the workshops under wraps until Tuesday, gave The Associated Press an exclusive tour shortly after Page reclaimed his original job as CEO on April 4.

The workshops offer a peek into ways Page may try to make the Internet giant work with the verve and creativity of a garage-bound entrepreneur. Page believes the 13-year-old company needs to return to thinking and acting like a feisty startup as it faces competition from younger Internet stars such as Facebook, Twitter and Groupon.

"There is a feeling here at Google that all good things start in a garage," said Greg Butterfield, an engineering lab manager who oversees the workshops. "Larry wanted to create the same kind of environment he and Sergey had when they started Google — a sort of a playground or sandbox for pursuing their ideas."

Originally known as the "Pi" Shop, the geeky getaway is open only to a privileged few among Google's 26,300 employees. To gain entry, workers must pass a test that includes such questions as "When you are using a band saw, what speed would you use to cut through aluminum?"

There are four separate rooms — for metal, wood, welding and electronics — tucked into an isolated corner of Google's 4.3-million-square-foot headquarters in Mountain View.

Besides heavy-duty equipment, such as an oscilloscope, plasma cutter and miter saw, there are some children's toys. One piece of gadgetry currently under construction in the shops partially consists of Legos — the same material that Page once used to build an inkjet printer, years before creating Google.

The projects that have emerged from the workshops include a giant tricycle that was designed to haul around 250 pounds of high-tech photo equipment. The trikes are used to supply the company's online mapping service with pictures of streets and other areas inaccessible by cars.

Engineers have used the shops to work on early prototypes of smartphones that run on Google's Android software, and they have customized parts for the automated, driverless cars that the company has been testing. There are other products still under development in the shops; the company declined to discuss them.

Most Google employees, though, use the shops for personal purposes. The ideas percolating in the workshops are so unpredictable that employees are encouraged to drop off scrap metal or other detritus just in case the junk might suit someone's project. During the AP's recent visit, a couple of old wheel axles and the rusted tailgate from a truck were sitting in the welding shop.

"You never know what you are going to find in here," Butterfield said.

Google isn't the only place in Silicon Valley where computer-coding engineers can show off their industrial might. A venture called TechShops sells memberships starting at about $100 per month to use heavy machinery for wood, metal, plastics and textiles. Besides the San Francisco Bay area, TechShops operates in Raleigh, N.C.

Google's workshops are free to all employees, like virtually all the company's perquisites. But the workshops are much more exclusive than Google's other benefits.

All employees must be certified to run the machinery before they are issued a badge to enter. The screening usually falls to Rodney Broome, 63, a veteran machinist who teaches the craft at nearby San Jose City College when he isn't busy as the foreman of Google's workshops.

"I feel like I am running my own company within the company here," Broome said.

Just as they do when they are trying to get hired at Google, employees have to pass a test. About 300 Google workers, or 1 percent of the work force, have been certified so far. Most of them are engineers, although badges have been given to a few who work in ad sales.

Broome said there have been no injuries in the workshops so far.

The screening standards are so strict that a college degree in mechanical engineering wasn't enough for Google software engineer Ihab Awad.

He attended a local high school's wood shop class for a semester before earning Broome's clearance. Awad also won Broome's approval to use the welding equipment.

His biggest accomplishment so far: a rocket-shaped bar equipped with a keg to pour beer at the end of long days in the office.

"The workshops are my No. 1 perk at Google," Awad said during a break from a welding project. "They're the main reason I will be a Googler for life."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tweeting, deleting help build Rutgers webcam case

Associated Press
April 23, 2011

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Accused of a hate crime for allegedly using a webcam to spy on his college roommate's same-sex encounter, the roommate of Tyler Clementi is now also finding that it's not just what you tweet, but also what you delete, that can get you in trouble.

Dharun Ravi, accused of using Twitter to invite people to watch Clementi's most private moments, was charged last week with several counts of bias intimidation and invasion of privacy. But perhaps just as surprising were the charges of evidence tampering that an indictment said stemmed from Ravi's attempts to delete text messages and a Twitter post.

Tweeting, deleting help build Rutgers webcam case.

"It's really novel way to take old-school evidence-tampering" charges into the newer spheres of social media and cyberspace, said Bradley S. Shear, a Bethesda, Md., attorney who counsels clients and blogs about social media and the law.

"It can help demonstrate that your virtual behavior, online activities, are just as important, if not more so, than everything you do in your everyday life," he said.

Ravi, 19, and another student, Molly Wei, were both charged with invasion of privacy for events that happened in the days leading up to Clementi's public suicide in September in which he jumped off the George Washington bridge.

Authorities said Ravi used Wei's computer in her room to activate his computer in his room using Skype, and viewed Clementi and another man's intimate moments. Ravi is accused of trying to do the same thing days later and inviting others to view the webcast.

Clementi's death came on the heels of a spate of gay teenagers nationwide killing themselves after being taunted, and it quickly galvanized national efforts by celebrities and activists to fight suicide and the bullying of gay teenagers.

Last week - nearly seven months after the 18-year-old Clementi, a talented violinist, took his life - a grand jury indicted Ravi on additional counts, which included bias intimidation and evidence tampering.

Several messages left with Ravi's attorney, Steven Altman, were not returned.

Prosecutors in at least one other U.S. case have argued that a defendant's efforts to delete his social-media postings essentially amounted to evidence tampering.

A former Air Force airman accused of killing his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter in Great Falls, Mont., was charged with solicitation to tamper evidence after authorities said he told his father to erase his Facebook, MySpace and email accounts to try to conceal potential evidence.

Prosecutors ultimately dropped the charge against Jerimie Hicks, saying they didn't believe it could be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Hicks was convicted in November of deliberate homicide and a different evidence-tampering solicitation charge involving a bloody uniform. He was sentenced to 100 years in prison.

Online or off, evidence-tampering charges entail proving someone didn't just get rid of something but did it to destroy evidence, lawyers say.

"It's fairly routine that until they become suspects, people are deleting electronic files," said Orin Kerr, a George Washington University Law School professor. "It's an understandable impulse to take it down."

But Kerr said the key to the crime is intent.

"If someone deletes information because they don't want it to be a news story, that's different than trying to keep police from arresting them," Kerr said.

The alleged harassment of Clementi and the case against his roommate will be made using many of the young men's own words from their postings on Twitter, Facebook and in chat rooms.

For Clementi, those words also offer insight into his mindset before he killed himself only weeks into his freshman year. For Ravi, his words will be used against him, as well as the posts he tried to erase.

The intimidation of Clementi went back to Aug. 6 - the day Ravi "learned the name of his roommate," according to prosecutors.

In an Aug. 22 post on Twitter, according to, Ravi said: "Found out my roommate is gay," and linked to a thread that Clementi is believed to have posted on a gay community chat room.

Less than a month later on Sept. 19, a cached copy of Ravi's account shows he tweeted: "Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay."

In a gay-themed chat room, a poster who appears to have been Clementi later described finding a webcam trained on him, reading his roommate's Twitter feed and pondering what he should do, according to a report first published on the Gawker gossip website.

The poster wrote: "don't wanna report him and then end up with nothing happening except him getting pissed at me."

Two days later, Ravi tweeted: "Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes it's happening again."

In the chat room, Clementi posted that he unplugged Ravi's computer and searched for hidden cameras before a liaison that night.

He also mentioned that he emailed his resident adviser to ask for a room change, adding that the adviser "seemed to take it seriously."

Later that day, Clementi posted on his Facebook account: "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry."

Amazon still trying to fix computer problems

Associated Press
April 23, 2011 is still trying to restore computers used by other websites as an outage stretched into a third day.

Besides selling books and DVDs, Inc. rents out space on computers that run other websites and online services. One of its data centers in Virginia began having problems on Thursday morning.

Amazon still trying to fix computer problems.

Amazon said Saturday that it is making progress fixing the problem, but more slowly than it had hoped. News-sharing site Reddit appeared to be functioning again. On its website, Amazon said it removed some bottlenecks that prevented connections from its Virginia center, but an additional issue was holding up restoring all remaining connections. The company's so-called "cloud' services in Northern California are operating normally.

No one knows for sure how many people have been inconvenienced, but the services affected are used by millions of people.

Seattle-based Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Yahoo to retain user search data for 18 months

Associated Press
April 18, 2011

WASHINGTON - Yahoo plans to extend the amount of time it retains user search records to 18 months from 90 days. The company says it will consider keeping other types of information about its users for longer durations, too.

The new data retention policy marks an about-face for Yahoo. In late 2008, the company became the first big Internet search engine to commit to "anonymizing" a wide range of user data after 90 days in most cases. Such data — including records of Web searches, page views and ad clicks — are used to personalize Web content and target online advertising.

Yahoo anonymizes the data by stripping out portions of users' numeric Internet addresses, altering small tracking files known as "cookies" and deleting other potential personally identifiable information.

Yahoo to retain user search data for 18 months

CNET analyzes Google search engine changes

CBS News - Tech
by Declan McCullagh
April 18, 2011

Google's sweeping changes to Web site rankings have roiled the Web industry, including the company's announcement last week that its algorithms now incorporate more "user feedback signals."

The reason Google made such a dramatic change to how it ranks Web sites is simple: Search engine optimizers had learned how to game the earlier algorithm to make low-quality writing more visible than quality content. Instead of preparing Web pages designed to benefit readers, SEO-focused content farms were writing for search engines.

CNET analyzes Google search engine changes

To test the changes and provide a rare glimpse into Google's algorithmic workings, CNET compiled nearly 100,000 results by testing in March and again last Friday after the most recent alterations took effect.

News sites generally benefited from the changes. According to our rankings based on the number of appearances on the first page of Google results, Fox News moved up from the No. 89 spot to No. 23. ABC News had a similarly impressive uptick, and ESPN, The New York Times, and Yahoo News became more visible as well.

The "Panda" algorithm change dramatically lowered traffic to sites like,, and, according to a post by It also negatively impacted some perfectly legitimate sites, including Cult of Mac and the British Medical Journal as well.

CNET's analysis found no significant change among the very top sites, which remained the same. Wikipedia, YouTube,, and IMDB stayed in the same enviable tier one positions, respectively. surged to position No. 22 from No. 51.

Twitter, Facebook, and Huffington Post each moved up a single notch, with Yelp, Flickr,, and WebMD slipping a bit. Government Web sites got a boost, with climbing from No. 125 to No. 79, and NASA, the Centers for Disease Control, and the National Institutes of Health increasing as well.

Among the Web sites that slid in visibility: WikiHow and eHow, which is consistent with other reports that Panda lowered the ranking of so-called content farms. The comparison site also slid.

"People who got hit were trying everything to get their sites out of it," says Barry Schwartz, news editor of Search Engine Land. "It was targeting low quality content sites."

Google declined to elaborate. "We typically don't comment on how specific algorithmic improvements impact specific Web sites," a spokeswoman said.

How we did this

To generate these results, we compiled approximately 2,000 search terms from a sampling of Google Insights' Web, news, and shopping searches. We then removed the duplicates, resulting in a total of 1,656 search terms, and tested those with (while not logged in) to see what the results would be.

We ignored advertisements, Google shopping results, and "searches related to" suggestions. We did decide to include Google News results, even though they're relatively ephemeral and can change by the hour. Plus, our analysis showed that excluding them wouldn't have changed the results very much.

Now, the disclaimers: Google, as it will be the first to tell you, is constantly altering its algorithm, and by the time you read this, the results from Friday's searches could well be out of date. Our first scan was in March, after Panda's appearance in late February, so it likely didn't capture the most significant changes.

Also, this shouldn't be viewed as a representative cross-section of Web searches. Google Insights only includes the most popular requests, not the more obscure ones. It focuses disproportionately on current events and--because we borrowed terms from the shopping searches--products, especially tech gadgets.

Then again, "charlie sheen teeth" and "venereal disease" appeared in our list of search terms. Thank you, Google Insights!

Google's localization algorithm

We also tested what happens if you connect to from an overseas Internet address. We picked one in London. We performed the same searches on the same day--the only variable that should have changed, in other words, was our location.

The results? Google engages in significant localization efforts, as you might imagine, with being the largest beneficiary by far.

In searches originating from the U.K., Yelp appeared only twice. In U.S. searches, by contrast, it was the ninth-most popular Web site, with both its topic and individual business pages weaved seamlessly into the main search results.

From our California address, Yelp garnered an enviable 45 first-page appearances for generic searches like "chocolate," "cleaning," "food," "lights," "laundry," "tv," and "weddings."

Other big localization beneficiaries that appeared prominently in U.S. searches but not from the U.K.:,, and

In addition to highlighting nearby bookstores and drugstores operated by national chains, Google also heavily favors local businesses.

For our U.S. tests, we used an Internet address near Palo Alto, Calif., which prompted Google to rank nearby businesses and municipal Web sites near the top of search results.

The City of Palo Alto's Web site appears in the first page of search results for terms including "adventures," "art," "business," "gas," and "jobs." makes repeat appearances ("budget cuts," "restaurants"), as do Stanford, the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, and Mike's Bikes.

There's not as much localization in the other direction. But the BBC's Web site leaps from the No. 66 spot to No. 5, and the U.K.'s National Health Service (which made no appearance in the U.S.) shows up at No. 26. The visibility of, the U.K. pharmacy chain Boots, and also jumps dramatically.

We wondered if connections to last month from abroad bypassed Panda and used the earlier algorithm, which would have made for another intriguing test. But an informed source close to the company, alas, says that's not the case.

See for yourself

Below you'll find an Excel file with multiple spreadsheets containing the raw data. If you use the data for any purpose, please attribute it to CNET and include a link to this article.

Four of the spreadsheets (March U.S., April U.S., March U.K., April U.K.) should be self-explanatory. The others show comparisons and may require a bit of explanation: the first column is the hostname, and the second and third columns show how the ranking has changed from the point of comparison. The final columns represent the search terms that bring up that Web site on the first page of results.

In the case of the U.K. spreadsheet comparing March to April, the second and third columns indicate that moved from position #11 to #7. The difference is 4, which shows a positive change (negative numbers are the opposite). For the "April U.S. vs. U.K" spreadsheet, those columns show that Yelp moved from rank #1328 to an enviable rank of #9 because it benefited from Google's localization efforts in the United States.

"NA" means the Web site didn't exist in the spreadsheet being used for comparison. In the "April U.S. vs. U.K" spreadsheet, "NA" shows up because the U.K.'s National Health Service Web site doesn't appear in any U.S. searches for the terms we tested.

Monday, April 18, 2011

S Korean search engines file Google complaints

Associated Press
April 15, 2011

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - South Korea's top Internet search companies asked the country's antitrust regulator Friday to investigate Google Inc. over whether it restricts competition in the mobile search market.

NHN Corp., which operates the top Naver search portal, and No. 2 Daum Communications Corp. filed complaints with South Korea's Fair Trade Commission.

S Korean search engines file Google complaints

The companies claim that Google restricts competition through imposing restrictions on local mobile service providers and smartphone manufacturers that have adopted its Android operating system from pre-loading rival mobile services.

"Through a marketing partnership with major smartphone producers, Google has prohibited other market players from pre-installing their search window or related applications," NHN said in a statement.

Mountain View, California-based Google said that it had yet to be contacted by the Fair Trade Commission, but would cooperate to answer any questions it may have.

"Android is an open platform," Google said in a statement issued through a local public relations company. Google added that carriers and companies it partners with "are free to decide which applications and services to include on their Android phones."

FTC spokesman Jun Sung-bok said the commission had no comment on the filings.

Government bows to advertisers over web privacy

The Telegraph
by Christopher Williams
April 15, 2011

The EU regulations require users to give permission for websites to install "cookies" in their browser.

These small text files are frequently needed for basic functions online such as storing usernames and passwords. They are also put to more controversial uses however, including by advertising firms like Google who track users' behaviour and interests as they surf the web.

Government bows to advertisers over web privacy

The communications minister Ed Vaizey said the UK will adopt a two-tier approach to implementing the regulations.

Firstly, officials are working with the major web browser makers to develop a way for users to give their permission on an ongoing basis. The result will probably be a button in the browser window that users will need to click just once, a DCMS spokesman said.

Web firms had feared the European regulations would mean they would be responsible for getting user permission every time the wanted to install a cookie. They successfully lobbied for a system that would not mean web surfing was constantly interrupted

Secondly, the government is supporting an industry initiative that will mean websites that use tracking cookies - also known as behavioural advertising cookies - will notify users via an icon in the corner of web advertisements. Those who do not want to be tracked will have to click on the icon to opt out.

"However, a one size fits all solution is not appropriate to the UK," a DCMS statement said.

"Flexibility is essential for innovation and new business models."

Regulation of tracking cookies in Britain is likely to be weaker than in the US, where the "Do Not Track" Bill, currently before Congress, would allow users to opt out of all behavioural tracking at once, in advance.

The European regulations are supposed to be in force by 25 May, but Mr Vaizey admitted Britain will not meet the deadline.

"We recognise that work on the technical solutions for cookie use will not be complete by the implementation deadline. It will take time for meaningful solutions to be developed, evaluated and rolled out," he said.

Mr Vaizey added that the Information Commissioner's Office will not take enforcement action while the new systems are developed and implemented, but did not say how long the process would take.

James Mullock, a data protection lawyer at Osborne Clarke, said: "The government is basically buying time, they are desperate to avoid too harsh an implementation of the directive."

Sergey Brin

New York Times
January 21, 2011

Sergey Brin is a co-founder of Google, the search engine and advertising giant, and its president of technology.

In January 2011, Google made the biggest management shake-up in a decade, handing the reins of the company to the other co-founder, Larry Page, in an effort to rediscover its start-up roots.

Sergey Brin

Mr. Page will take over as chief executive from Eric E. Schmidt, a technology industry veteran who was brought in a decade ago to provide adult supervision, as Silicon Valley calls it.

Mr. Brin and Mr. Page co-founded Google when they were graduate students in computer science at Stanford in 1998.

While Mr. Page is aloof, cerebral, intensely private and occasionally brusque, Mr. Brin is more gregarious.

The co-founders and Mr. Schmidt all have controlling stakes in the company. Forbes magazine recently estimated that Mr. Page and Mr. Brin had a net worth of $15 billion each, and Mr. Schmidt, $5.5 billion.

The company, and the search industry, face challenges on several fronts.

Google remains immensely powerful and successful. But the sudden rise of Facebook has exposed Google’s failures in areas like social networking and threatens its vast share of the online advertising market. Meanwhile, although Google has had success in new areas like mobile and display advertising, it has struggled to branch out into other businesses like television.

The unspoken fear within Google is that it could become like Microsoft, a once-dominant technology company that seems past its prime and perceived as stodgier, despite successes like XBox and Kinect. Indeed, for all its financial success, Google, which has 24,400 employees, is no longer considered by many top engineers as the most desirable place to work in the Valley; a new generation of start-ups has taken that place.

Google's rapidly rising expenses crimp 1Q earningsGoogle's rapidly rising expenses crimp 1Q earnings

Associated Press
April 14, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO – Google is helping the economy and hurting its stock. The company is hiring so many employees for projects outside its thriving search advertising business that its expenses are growing much faster than its revenue.

The strategy came into sharper focus in Google Inc.'s first-quarter earnings report released Thursday. Higher costs spooked investors who are already nervous about a new CEO who detests Wall Street's fixation on short-term results.

Google's rapidly rising expenses crimp 1Q earnings

Google has committed to hiring at least 6,200 workers this year, the most in its 13-year history. It added more than 1,900 people in the first quarter, a pace that would translate to more than 7,600 for the year. Google ended March with more than 26,300 workers, 28 percent higher than a year ago.

The push coincides with Google co-founder Larry Page's return to his original job as CEO. Page, who ended Eric Schmidt's decade-long tenure as CEO after the first quarter ended, has indicated he plans to keep investing in opportunities that may take years to pay off, even if that drags down results in the near term.

Page, known for his aloofness, made a few tame remarks on Google's earnings conference call Thursday. He then turned things over to Chief Financial Officer Patrick Pichette, who has been steering the presentations for the past year.

"I'm very excited about Google and our momentum, and I'm very, very optimistic about our future," Page said.

He also assured listeners that the management transition announced three months ago is unfolding as the company envisioned. Page is overseeing day-to-day operations while Schmidt handles government relations and stalks possible acquisition targets in his new role as executive chairman.

Before taking his new role, Schmidt, 55, regularly shared his thoughts with analysts. He participated in every Google's earnings conference call until a year ago.

Page, 38, evidently intends to avoid the quarterly calls. In a Thursday interview, Pichette said Page only swung by for two minutes Tuesday as a courtesy to reassure investors. "He was just being gracious and dropped in to say hi," Pichette said.

It didn't seem to reduce the anxiety about Google's spending and the competitive threat it faces from Facebook, whose popular website has been drawing Internet traffic and advertising away from Google.

Google shares shed $31.50, or 5.5 percent, to $547.01 in extended trading Thursday after the release of the results. At that price, the stock has now fallen by about 13 percent since the announcement that Schmidt would replace Page.

Although Schmidt always emphasized that he wasn't managing Google to hit analysts' earnings targets, the company exceeded those expectations in all but six of his 27 quarters as CEO — a success rate of 78 percent. His final quarter as CEO turned out to be among the rare misses.

The company earned $2.3 billion, or $7.04 per share, in the period ending in March. That was an 18 percent increase from nearly $2 billion, or $6.06 per share, last year.

If not for the cost of stock-based employee rewards, Google said it would have earned $8.08 per share. That was below the average estimate of $8.11 per share among analysts surveyed by FactSet.

Revenue reached nearly $8.6 billion, a 27 percent increase from last year.

After subtracting the commissions paid to ad partners, Google's revenue stood at $6.54 billion. That figure topped the average analyst estimate of $6.33 billion, according to FactSet.

But those numbers were overshadowed by significantly higher expenses. Excluding the ad commissions and employee stock compensation, first-quarter expenses rose 44 percent from last year to $3.7 billion.

Labor costs appeared to be the biggest factor. The company gave all its workers a 10 percent raise at the beginning of the year and then went on a hiring splurge.

More than half of the new staff is working on products and services to supplement the search advertising network, which makes most of Google's money. The new growth opportunities include video ads on Google's YouTube site, ads on smartphones, and more banner advertising to lessen the company's dependence on text ads that appear alongside search results and other Web content. The company also is spending more to promote its Web browser, Chrome.

"We are doing what we believe is in the interest for the long term for shareholders by building great businesses and great products," Pichette said in an interview.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Arianna Huffington at centre of bloggers' lawsuit

The Telegraph
by Amanda Andrews
April 12, 2011

A lawsuit, filed in the Manhattan federal court, comes two months after Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the website, sold it to AOL for $315m. The lawsuit has claimed that, of that price, at least $105m was the estimated value of the website's unpaid writings, which should now be given to the bloggers.

"The Huffington Post is nothing without the bloggers who created the content," said Jonathan Tasini, a one-time Huffington Post blogger who filed the lawsuit and is seeking class-action status on behalf of the bloggers.

Arianna Huffington at centre of bloggers' lawsuit

Part opinion, part news, the left-leaning website has relied on free contributions by celebrities, politicians and experts to drive its internet traffic, turning it into a major online force since its start in 2005.

Ms Huffington told The Telegraph in an interview last month that people should not expect to get paid for their blog contributions – they are simply getting the opportunity for their voices to be heard.

"It is really important to make a clear distinction between people who write and blog. Confusing the two is really missing the point of what is happening online," she says. "We do not pay bloggers. This is not a question of ever paying bloggers. When people go on [the BBC's] Newsnight , do they get paid? Do people complain that Newsnight doesn't pay you? I can show you emails from very influential people to post their blogs on the Huffington Post. And that's because they get exposure."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Microsoft attacks Google over security

Associated Press
April 11, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Microsoft Corp. is lashing out at Google Inc., extending hostilities between two of the most prominent corporations in the technology industry.

Microsoft claimed Google has been misleading customers about the security certification of its suite of software programs for governments. Microsoft's deputy general counsel, David Howard, blogged on Monday about a newly unsealed court document that shows that "Google Apps for Government" hasn't been certified under the Federal Information Security Management Act.

Microsoft attacks Google over security

Google's website claims it has, and the company has attested to that in court documents.

"It's time for Google to stop telling governments something that is not true," Howard wrote.

The documents are part of a Google lawsuit alleging that it was improperly frozen out of competing for a U.S. Department of Interior contract to build a new e-mail system for 85,000 employees - a contract that Microsoft won. A judge earlier sided with Google's belief that the bidding was rigged to favor Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft, and issued a preliminary injunction while the two sides duke it out.

Google insists it's not deceiving anyone, since a less-robust version of the product has already been certified under FISMA.

"We did not mislead the court or our customers," the company said in a statement, noting that "Google Apps" received a FISMA clearance in July 2010, and that "Google Apps for Government" is "the same system with enhanced security controls that go beyond FISMA requirements."

The documents show that Mountain View, Calif.-based Google is in the process of applying for certification for "Google Apps for Government."

The controversy illustrates the wide range of complaints and tactics that Google and Microsoft are using to attack each other. Their enmity has grown as Microsoft encroaches on Google's search turf and Google goes calling on Microsoft's customers to sell them programs such as email and word processing.

The maneuvering has ranged from a "gotcha"-type stunt in which Google accused Microsoft in February of copying Google's search results, to Microsoft - long a target of antitrust complaints - filing its first formal antitrust complaint against a rival by arguing to European authorities that Google is abusing its dominance to freeze out rival services.

Facebook Founder wins legal battle against former Harvard classmates

by Dan Levine
April 11, 2011

Mark Zuckerberg won a legal battle against former Harvard classmates who accuse him of stealing their idea for Facebook, but the feud made famous on the silver screen is not over yet.

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss must accept a cash and stock settlement with Facebook that had been valued at $65 million, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Monday. Meanwhile, a New York man filed an amended lawsuit against Zuckerberg on Monday, citing a 2003 email in which Zuckerberg discusses an urgent need to launch his site before "a couple of upperclassmen" could launch theirs, an apparent reference to the Winklevoss twins.

Facebook Founder wins legal battle against former Harvard classmates

The Winklevoss brothers argued their settlement with Facebook was unfair because the company hid information from them during talks. But the twins were sophisticated negotiators aided by a team of lawyers, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel.

"At some point, litigation must come to an end," Kozinski wrote. "That point has now been reached."

An attorney for the brothers, Jerome Falk Jr., said on Monday his clients would seek a rehearing before a larger, "en banc" group of 9th Circuit judges.

That larger group can overrule a three-judge panel, although only a fraction of cases undergo such a review. Should the 9th Circuit refuse to rehear the case, the last option would be an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Falk said he "respectfully" disagreed with the 9th Circuit's conclusions.

The 6-foot, 5-inch (1.96-meter) Winklevoss brothers are Olympic rowers who participated in the 2008 games in Beijing, and their saga with Zuckerberg was dramatized in the film "The Social Network."

In the movie, actor Armie Hammer played both identical twins. Zuckerberg's character snidely called them on-screen the "Winklevi."


The twins, along with Divya Narendra, started a company called ConnectU while at Harvard. They say Zuckerberg stole their idea. Facebook denies these claims.

Facebook took in $1.2 billion of revenue in 2010's first nine months, according to documents that Goldman Sachs provided to clients to entice investors in a special fund set up to invest in the giant social networking firm.

The company was valued at $50 billion as part of that transaction. The company said on Monday it is evaluating the Internet market in China, but a source indicated it has not yet signed a business deal with any companies there.

The Winklevoss twins and Narendra agreed to a settlement that had been valued at $65 million. But they argue that, based on an internal valuation that Facebook did not reveal, they should have received more Facebook shares as part of the deal.

A lower court had granted Facebook's request to enforce the settlement with the Winklevoss twins and Narendra. The 9th Circuit agreed on Monday.

New Google CEO Larry Page reshuffles exec team

Associated Press
April 8, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - Google CEO Larry Page has promoted at least seven executives to head key parts of the company in one of his first big moves since he took over the Internet search company on Monday. The management reshuffle is an attempt at streamlining a bureaucracy that's sometimes bogged down Google even as it became the world's most valuable Internet company.

Page, Google's 38-year-old co-founder, took over from Eric Schmidt, who is staying on as executive chairman. Page has made it a top priority to cut out the bureaucracy and speed up innovation at Google, which is facing threats from new startups, such as Facebook, Twitter and the online deals company Groupon.

New Google CEO Larry Page reshuffles exec team

These companies have built their success on "social," the buzzword that defines the latest generation of Internet icons. Google, whose bread and butter is online search, hasn't been all that successful in building up the social side of its products.

The seven executives, all holding the title of senior vice president, are:

* Andy Rubin, its top mobile executive;
* Salar Kamangar, the head of video site YouTube;
* Sundar Pichai, who's in charge of the Chrome browser and operating system effort;
* Alan Eustace, senior vice president for engineering and research;
* Jeff Huber, senior vice president of commerce and local;
* Vic Gundotra, who leads social ventures; and
* Susan Wojcicki, who heads ads.

Some already had the senior vice president title before the latest change.

Ben Schachter, an analyst with Macquarie Capital, said the management changes are not surprising overall. But he said Page's decision to elevate "social" to make it a separate group on par with ads or search shows a clear concern over the threat from Facebook and others.

Google reports its first-quarter earnings Thursday.

Shares of Google, which is based in Mountain View, Calif., slid $1.84 to close Friday at $578.16.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

FTC, Justice Dept mull Google antitrust probe

Yahoo! News
by Diane Bartz
April 5, 2011

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. antitrust regulators may investigate Google Inc's dominance of the Web search industry, and will settle on the agency to launch a probe once scrutiny into the company's plan to buy ITA software is done, a source told Reuters.

The Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department will decide which has more expertise and whether to launch a formal investigation once the latter wraps up the ITA probe, the source said.

FTC, Justice Dept mull Google antitrust probe

The FTC and Justice Department declined to comment.

Shares of Google fell more than 3.2 percent on Tuesday, following a Bloomberg report that the FTC is considering an antitrust investigation.

"They're waiting for ITA to pop," said the source, who spoke anonymously to preserve business relationships.

Google's proposed acquisition of ITA for $700 million has sparked worries in the tech world that travel websites such as Orbitz Worldwide Inc, Kayak and TripAdvisor could be deprived of ITA's software. Google announced plans to acquire ITA Software for $700 million in cash in July.

A potential U.S. probe, which would come on top of an ongoing European antitrust investigation, underscores the increasing non-operational risks that Google is facing, said BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis.

"Google is definitely in the regulatory crosshairs," he said.

The Internet giant has been under investigation by the European Commission since last November.

Last week rival Microsoft Corp filed a formal complaint with European antitrust regulators, claiming that Google systematically thwarts Internet search competition. [ID:nN31223364]

There have been a series of complaints made to regulators, many from rivals to Google which specialize in vertical searches like price comparison websites, that Google has made them difficult to find through searching by giving them low rankings.

"Since competition is one click away on the Internet, we work hard to put our users' interests first and give them the best, most relevant answers to their queries -- whether it's a web page, news article, image, or map," said Adam Kovacevich, a spokesman from Google.

Microsoft charged that Google hurt competition by "walling off" content on its YouTube site, so other search engines cannot display accurate results. It also said that Google made it hard for Microsoft's mobile phone software to show videos from YouTube, among other charges.

Google has had antitrust setbacks. The company walked away from a search deal with Yahoo in 2008 when the Justice Department signaled it was prepared to challenge it.

And a New York judge said last month that a deal Google had made with publishers and authors to create a massive digital library was illegal partially because it effectively gave Google the rights to orphan books, books which are in copyright but whose authors cannot be found.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Google's Larry Page must mend image of firm, self

SF Gate
by James Temple
April 3, 2011

It would take a prolonged investigation and trial to determine whether Google has actually abused market dominance under antitrust laws. But the conclusions of the FTC and the judge in the Google Books case suggest the company is at least testing the boundaries of privacy and copyright rules. In other words, there's a perception problem, because there's a reality problem.

Google's Larry Page must mend image of firm, self.

Trying to rewrite law

Google Books was reportedly Page's brainchild. It's the perfect example of everything that people find both wonderful and worrisome about Google. Few can dispute the immense social good promised by such an ambitious project: essentially making the corpus of world knowledge instantly searchable by anyone.

But Google was tripped up chiefly through its execution, by storming ahead and copying the professional labors of others, without their permission. Its proposed legal settlement was even more audacious: seeking to essentially rewrite how copyright law works through an agreement between private parties, while granting itself a "de facto monopoly" over digitized works for which an author can't be located, Judge Denny Chin wrote in his opinion.

The settlement "would give Google a significant advantage over competitors, rewarding it for engaging in wholesale copying of copyrighted works without permission," he said.

The message floating out to select publications is that Page wants to return the company to its entrepreneurial roots; to kick-start its innovation engine. That's a good thing, of course. But Page and Google may need to recognize that different rules and different lenses apply for a startup in a Menlo Park garage and an almost $190 billion company that dominates the search market.

Increasingly, Google might have to seek consensus and partnerships to achieve its goals, rather than simply unleashing disruptive technologies on the world.

That may mean Page will have to learn to empathize with, rather than dismiss out of hand, those who don't see the world the way he and Google do. And it could mean sometimes - and maybe even a lot of the time - he'll have to plead his case in the court of public opinion, or else the other kind.

Need for turnaround

Some believe this is all well within Page's capabilities, if he chooses to work at it.

"I've seen a lot of CEOs exhibit complete turnarounds," said Charlene Li, founder of the Altimeter Group, specifically mentioning Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg.

Others are dubious, including Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of the just released "The Googlization of Everything."

"I think that with Larry Page taking over Google, it's going to be more arrogance and more idealism, at the very moment when he should be humble and realistic, in order to get through these very real regulatory pressures," he said.