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Friday, September 27, 2013

Google Unveils Major Overhaul Of Its Search Engine

Story first appeared in USA TODAY.

Google's changes are a big deal because so many other companies rely on Google search results to get visitors to their own websites.

ENLO PARK, Calif. — Google unveiled a big revamp of its search engine Thursday that affects 90% of the search results served up worldwide by the Internet giant.

Called Hummingbird internally, the change to Google's main search algorithm kicked in about a month ago, but was not disclosed by Google until Thursday at an event in Silicon Valley marking the company's 15-year anniversary.

"It is really big," said Google search executive Amit Singhal.

The new algorithm makes search results more relevant and useful, especially when users ask more complex questions — something that has been happening a lot more in recent years, Singhal explained.

Google unveiled the change at the old Menlo Park, Calif., house of Susan Wojcicki, senior vice president of Google advertising. Google started in 1998 in Wojcicki's garage. The company opened the space for reporters to announce its latest search efforts.
"We think about having 100 years to create the most amazing search opportunity. So we are 15 years in," Wojcicki said Thursday.

Google dominates the multibillion-dollar Web search business, so any changes it makes to search are closely watched, especially by those in the Internet and advertising industries.

"Industries hold their breath whenever something like this happens because it changes the way search results appear," said Sameet Sinha, an analyst at B. Riley & Co. "Google is such a significant part of traffic to most websites, so any change in algorithms is extremely important."

Companies including Demand Media, TripAdvisor,, Yelp and WebMD get a lot of their Web traffic from Google search results and some of these companies have been hit by changes in the company's algorithms in the past, Sinha noted.

On Thursday, Google search executive Tamar Yehoshua showed off new voice-based queries by asking for a comparison of the nutritional benefits of olive oil compared with coconut oil. Google's new search algorithm returned a result dominated by a long list of information comparing the two oils — all compiled by Google and shown on Google's own website.

"If I get the information first on Google, maybe I don't click through to WebMD anymore," Sinha said. "There will definitely be some boats that will be rocked by this."

Google revolutionized search by developing the PageRank system for ranking the world's Web pages based on relevance, using an algorithm that tracked how many times those pages are referenced by other pages. In 2010, Google completely changed the system through an upgrade called Caffeine — and now the company has rebuilt it again with Hummingbird.

The change comes as people become more comfortable asking long, complex questions when they use Google to search the Web, rather than single words or simple phrases, Singhal explained in an interview with USA TODAY.

Google is also making the change to ensure its search results work well with voice-based queries. When people speak, rather than type on a computer, they use more complex phrases and Google had to update its algorithm to handle that, Singhal said.

Voice-based search is becoming more important as people use smartphones more to find information, Singhal and other Google executives said Thursday.

Ben Gomes, a top Google engineer originally from India, said that Google's voice-recognition technology used to have trouble handling his mix of Indian and American accents. But now, he said, the technology picks up his speech accurately.

"Today, voice search is actually working," Singhal added.

Friday, September 20, 2013

AllThingsD Divorce

Story first appeared on

Dow Jones, publisher of The Wall Street Journal, said Thursday it will not renew its contract with technology news site AllThingsD when it expires at the end of the year and will launch a similar site.

Walt Mossberg, a veteran WSJ journalist and co-founder of the site, also will be leaving the paper at the end of the year as part of the corporate divorce.

Dow Jones, a division of News Corp., will launch a technology news site and plans to hire 20 reviewers, bloggers, visual journalists, editors and reporters. "Technology is the central driver of economic growth and the Journal is committed to being the indispensable global source of news and information in this critical area," Gerard Baker, editor in chief of Dow Jones and managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, said in a statement.

Dow Jones will keep the AllThingsD name, presumably meaning the technology news site that will likely continue under the leadership of Mossberg and co-founder Kara Swisher will adopt a new name and be restructured under a different corporate entity.

Dow Jones said it hasn't finalized its plans for the brand.

AllThingsD was launched by Mossberg and Swisher, a former WSJ reporter, in 2007 as an extension of The Wall Street Journal's D: All Things Digital conference that debuted four years earlier. It has since become a must-read news site in Silicon Valley and its conferences are attended by high-profile CEOs in the industry.

Dow Jones said it also plans to expand its conference business by introducing an international technology show.

In a note published on, Mossberg and Swisher confirmed that the site, as it currently stands, will cease operation at the end of the year but that they will be "Web-siting and conference-producing and much more" under a new corporate structure with new partners and investors.

"While we can't give any details yet — and there are details — you can assume that this new independent business will be laser-focused on continuing and extending Web journalism and conference journalism with the highest standards," they wrote.

The new venture will have "added resources" for hiring more journalists and doing more video and reviews, they said.

Mossberg has been with the newspaper for more than 20 years, covering various beats and becoming one of the most influential technology gadget reviewers.

"As part of the mutual separation, Walt Mossberg will be leaving the Journal at the end of this year," Baker said. "I want to offer heartfelt thanks for more than twenty years of Personal Technology columns as well as his very fine reporting on national and international affairs in the years before he turned his attention to technology coverage."

Their split has been expected for a while following reports earlier this year that AllThingsD had begun looking for new investors in anticipation of the contract expiration.

Throughout his involvement with AllThingsD, Mossberg remained an employee of Dow Jones, while others worked as contractors.

New LinkedIn Ad Chief Is From Google

Story first appeared on USATODAY.

LinkedIn has just boosted its status on Madison Avenue.

The professional-networking giant on Thursday said it has hired Penry Price as advertising chief. Price is president at Dstillery, formerly known as Media6Degrees, a digital ad-targeting platform. He previously served as an ad executive at Google and will join LinkedIn in the coming months.

LinkedIn's hiring of the high-profile ad exec signals the company is building up its advertising business. What that means is the
networking site is likely eyeing expansion beyond it current ad role with field sales staff and self-service ads used by small businesses.

LinkedIn has morphed beyond its roots as a job and recruiting destination to a growing site for discovering business news and information. The company in recent months has been testing sponsored updates from brands targeting its audience.

"Their beginnings have been fantastic, and there is so much more to accomplish," Price wrote in an email to USA Today.

Last month, LinkedIn hired David Thacker as vice president of products at its marketing solutions unit. He will work closely with Price, who will be vice president of worldwide sales for the group.

Thacker also worked at Google, as well as Groupon, in product and advertising positions.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Story first appeared MailOnline.

Google executive, 27, accused of 'sleeping her way to the top' in irate online posts after affair with boss Sergey Brin, 40, was exposed

  •     Amanda Rosenberg named as the new lover of Sergey Brin
  •     The Google co-founder is one of the world's richest men with $22bn fortune
  •     He and wife Anne Wojcicki, both 40, married in 2007 and have two children
  •     Miss Rosenberg went to the same £31,000-a-year school as the Middletons
  •     She is marketing manager for Google's Glass computerised spectacles
  •     The 27-year-old came up with the 'Ok, Glass' command to activate the device
  •     Brin and his wife reportedly have a prenuptial agreement in case of divorce 

The British lover of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, 40, has found herself the target of heavy abuse online after news of her affair with the married multi-billionaire emerged.

Amanda Rosenberg, 27, who attended one of the UK's most exclusive schools with Kate Middleton has been accused of 'sleeping her way to the top' and of destroying Brin's marriage of six years to Anne Wojcicki.

Google has been rocked by talk of the romance, and a spokesman confirmed this weekend that Brin – one of the world’s richest men with a $22 billion fortune - has been living apart from his wife and mother of his two children.

The abuse has been posted to Rosenberg's Google + account, with one individual known as Bill Kowba commenting on a picture, 'Was this photo taken before or after you slept with a married man and destroyed his marriage.?'

Another irate person, under the handle Jan Vries, wrote, 'You are such a soulless person. No morality. Ruining a man's life. Think of his two children...Shame on you.'

However, the abuse was not totally one sided, with others standing up for her.

'Do you have nothing better to do than write nasty comments to this girl?' someone else wrote, under the handle holdengirl02 1.

If they divorce, Californian law suggests their massive fortune would have to be halved – although they reportedly signed a strict pre-nuptial agreement.

While the internet was agog with talk of Brin romancing his much younger employee, the Daily Mail tracked down a distinctly unsurprised former boyfriend of Miss Rosenberg – who said she knew the power of her womanly ways.

Ewan Butler, 28, a trainee teacher living with his parents in Darlington, said: Amanda's a good looking girl, and she knows she is.

'And she's good at "playing" men – she played me.

Brin,s relationship with Rosenberg emerged only yesterday – but the pair were pictured together earlier this year at a New York Fashion Week event, both wearing the controversial Google Glass computerised spectacles for which she is marketing manager.

An employee of Google since she graduated with a communications degree from Leeds University, she initially worked for the internet giant in London before last year moving to San Francisco to work at its Silicon Valley nerve center.

She soon won a role promoting Google Glass, widely criticised as the glasses which enable users to film and broadcast over the internet everything they see non-stop, worrying privacy campaigners.

Miss Rosenberg wrote an online blog soon after she arrived – describing herself as a misanthropic Brit struggling to come to terms with Californian optimism.

She wrote:   I'd been living a beautifully choreographed life in London for pretty much my entire life; family, friends, job, life. Then one day I realized the beauty had faded.

So I applied for a transfer with my company to a different country. Yes! The romance of a transfer!

Luckily for me this all worked out like I dreamed it would...NOT. Of course it didn’t work out like that!

I remember having conversations with people about moving countries, and no one talks about how it felt to be alone.

'I wanted to grab them and scream “Why are you not telling me about how you ate lunch in the toilets at work for the first week because no one talked to you?"

Third Party 'Cookies' May Be Trashed By Google

Story first appeared on

Google, the world's largest Internet search company, is considering a major change in how online browsing activity is tracked, a move that could shake up the $120 billion digital advertising industry.

Google, which accounts for about a third of worldwide online ad revenue, is developing an anonymous identifier for advertising, or AdID, that would replace third-party cookies as the way advertisers track people's Internet browsing activity for marketing purposes, according to a person familiar with the plan.

The AdID would be transmitted to advertisers and ad networks that have agreed to basic guidelines, giving consumers more privacy and control over how they browse the Web, the person said, on condition of anonymity.

The person did not want to be identified because Google has not made the proposal public — although the company plans to reach out to industry participants, government bodies and consumer groups in coming weeks and months.

    "Technological enhancements can improve users' security while ensuring the Web remains economically viable. We and others have a number of concepts in this area, but they're all at very early stages," Google spokesman Rob Shilkin said. He declined to comment further.

Google's move will be closely watched by the ad industry because the company is not only the leader in online advertising, its Chrome browser is now the world's most popular, having surged ahead of Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Mozilla's Firefox and Apple's Safari in recent years.

The cookie — a small line of text with an identification tag that is integrated into browsers — for years has been the staple way to recognize users when they visit websites. First-party cookies are placed on people's computers by companies that run the websites, while third-party cookies are from other entities that collect data on browsing activity.

The technology is used by the ad industry to build a picture of people's interests, so more relevant ads can be shown to them online. However, cookies are controversial because tracking technology has become so sophisticated that it has raised privacy concerns.

Apple's Safari browser has blocked third-party cookies since its introduction in 2003, and the technology giant introduced its own ad identifiers for its iOS mobile platform last year.

If Google follows through with its own version of this approach, that could give users more control over how they are tracked online. However, it will also put more power in the hands of two of the largest technology companies, according to some people in the advertising industry.

"There could be concern in the industry about a system that shifts more of the benefits and control to operators like Google or Apple," said Clark Fredricksen of eMarketer, which tracks the digital ad industry.

"Restricting third-party cookies isn't going to make relevant advertising go away; it just hands more power to big companies," said Zach Coelius, CEO of ad technology firm Triggit.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau, which represents the industry, at least wants some type of tracking technology available for advertisers, whether third-party cookies or something else, said Mike Zaneis, the group's general counsel.

However, leaving such ad identifiers in the hands of a few large companies is not ideal, he added.

"They could deprecate the use of that ID on a whim, basically, and severely undermine billions of dollars in digital ad spending," Zaneis said.

The IAB is battling with Mozilla, which announced a new policy earlier this year that blocks third-party cookies in its Firefox browser by default.

Google's proposal is not so drastic, because the company is developing its own AdID as an alternative tracking tool for advertisers.

However, the new tool will give users the ability to limit ad tracking through browser settings, according to the person familiar with the plan.

The AdID may be automatically reset by the browser every year, and users will be able to create a secondary AdID for online browsing sessions they want to keep particularly private, the person explained.

Advertisers will get access to these AdIDs, as long as they adhere to the terms of the program. However, users may be able to change the list of approved advertisers, through controls in the browser, to exclude specific firms, the person added.

Monday, September 09, 2013


Story first appeared on USATODAY.

Microsoft investors won't be bored this week.

They've got a bunch of scenarios to work through in the wake of the software giant's proposed $7.2 billion acquisition of struggling Finnish cellphone maker Nokia.

First off, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop doesn't necessarily have the inside track to replace Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, when Ballmer retires within the next 12 months.

In an interview with the Verge, Ballmer hedged when asked about Elop's future role, as is his fiduciary responsibility to do so.

Ballmer told the Verge: "Our board is going through a process open to internal and external candidates. It's a process that they wanted well-known so they could consider everybody internal and external. Stephen Elop happens to be going from external to internal but our board will consider everybody. They will do it in private — that's the right way for the board to conduct its business."

Even so, no one will be surprised if Ballmer pushes his old protege to the top. Elop, a Canadian, was a senior operations executive at Adobe and Juniper Networks before Ballmer hired him in 2008 to take the reins of Microsoft's cash cow Office product line. Elop left Microsoft in 2010 to assume the CEO posting, heading up Nokia.

"This gives Elop an inside track to replace Ballmer as Microsoft's CEO," says Jack Gold, tech industry analyst at J. Gold Associates. "I think that was a big piece of the calculus behind the acquisition."

Under Elop, Nokia has helped boost Windows Phone, which recently surpassed BlackBerry and became the No. 3 most popular smartphone operating system. Still, Windows Phone is a very distant third. It has just a 3.3% share of the global smartphone market, compared to 14% for iOS and 79% for kingpin Android, according to Gartner.

That said, Nokia remains a major handset manufacturer. It has a "highly evolved device design and manufacturing process which will benefit Microsoft greatly," says Al Hilwa, applications development analyst at IDC. "This is simply the fastest path in front of Microsoft to achieve something like Apple's vision on devices."

Trip Chowdhry, research director at Global Equities Research, is in the camp of Microsoft skeptics who believe it is too late for Windows Phone to catch Android or iOS. "In the Internet era, imitation is not a strategy but a recipe for disaster," Chowdhry observes. "Being fast and first will always win."

Then there is the matter of Ballmer's track record in billion dollar acquisitions for shareholders to contemplate.

Ballmer greenlighted the $1.2 billion acquisition of fledgling social networking site Yammer in July 2012, and engineered the $8.5 billion buy out of Internet phone service Skype in October 2011. Neither Yammer nor Skye has added materially to the company.

And then there is Ballmer's infamous $6.2 billion acquisition of online advertising tech firm aQuantive in May 2007. He pulled the trigger on that deal specifically to counter Google's month-earlier purchase of the larger, more-established DoubleClick, for $3.1 billion. Ballmer gambled that aQuantive would help transform Microsoft into an online advertising giant on par with Google.

But that bet fizzled. In July 2012, the company took a $6.2 billion write-down — basically acknowledging the failure of aQuantive. Investors fumed. Some shareholders felt strongly that Ballmer could have chosen, instead, to pay them $6.2 billion in dividends, which might have also boosted Microsoft's share price.

"I was positive on both the Skype and Yammer acquisitions, but so far am not overwhelmed by what they've added to Microsoft's balance sheet, although both offer strategic advantages that the company could still leverage," says Gold.

In fact, more often than not, high-profile acquisitions rarely live up to the announcement day hype . But that has never stopped executives heading up cash-rich companies from laying down the next big bet.

"It is important for companies facing disruption to bring in significant outside talent to force-change their culture," Hilwa argues. "In this case, Microsoft got Nokia for a fraction of its value a few short years ago. And I am sure Elop will throw his hat in the ring for the job search of the century."

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Has LinkedIn Crossed An Ethical Line?

Story originally appeared on Forbes.

A recent Ask The Headhunter article by Nick Corcodilos on the PBS NewsHour website had this provocative headline: “Is LinkedIn Cheating Employers and Job Seekers Alike?”

As a longtime fan of LinkedIn, the standard bearer for online professional networking, I found Corcordilos’ findings to be troubling. I think you will, too.

Fee to Get a Resumé Seen

Here’s the crux of the issue:

Initially, all of LinkedIn’s services were free to job seekers. But over the past few years, in an effort to generate profits, LinkedIn shifted its business model and started acting more like a job board than a networking site. Along the way, the company began charging employers to post jobs and to gain access to resumés; it also invited job seekers to pay for “premium” services.

What’s so disturbing about that?

Several things. For starters, job boards have proven incredibly ineffective at matching applicants to openings. An analysis by employment industry watchdog firm CareerXroads reveals that during a 10-year period when revenues for job boards exploded, the percentage of hires made through them fell by about 50%. In that period, only 2.5% of hires by employers came from the gorilla job boards, and, combined.

It’s clear that broad-based job boards make bundles of money while companies waste millions on the postings and people rarely find positions through them.

Now here’s where the story gets really troubling. LinkedIn now sells a $29.95 per month “Job Seeker Premium” membership to people looking for work. Sign up for it and when you apply for jobs on LinkedIn, your application will move to the top of the pile as a “featured applicant,” regardless of your qualifications.

That’s right. As long as you pay $29.95 a month, you’ll get top billing, even when you don’t deserve it. “It seems LinkedIn has slid down the slippery slope of inconsistent, questionable offers and business practices,” Corcodilos wrote.

The Problem With the LinkedIn Fee

This practice discriminates against people who can’t afford to pay for placement.

(MORE: 7 Keys to a Successful Job Search)

But more to the point, it preys on job seekers’ insecurities by promising a benefit that is really no benefit at all. After all, how impressed is an employer likely to be when it knows you paid for placement?

Incredibly, by placing a premium badge next to your profile, LinkedIn makes it ridiculously easy for employers to know when job seekers have shelled out cash to get their resumés seen.

What LinkedIn Says About Its Fee

LinkedIn calls this transparency.

Responding to a BuzzFeed article on the Corcodilos piece, a LinkedIn spokesperson said: “We clearly highlight – via a yellow outline and Job Seeker Premium badge – that the candidate is atop the list because they’re a Job Seeker Premium subscriber (members with the badge are twice as likely to be contacted by recruiters). By doing this, we’re being transparent with recruiters and increasing the likelihood a Job Seeker Premium subscriber’s profile is being read.”

In fairness, LinkedIn is not the only job board charging for increased visibility.

You can buy premium positioning on, too. But the fact that other job boards are doing it doesn’t make it ethical.

My View About the Policy

Call me naïve, but I expected more from LinkedIn.

The company has proven to be an innovator. It has an incredible site and unparalleled networking capabilities for people in the working world. Its content is timely, interesting and valuable.

In short, LinkedIn does many things right. But when it comes to charging job seekers for premium memberships, the people there have got it all wrong.

I’m not opposed to LinkedIn charging job seekers for its services. Clearly LinkedIn is in business to make money and needs to generate profits to grow. That’s how capitalism works.

But there must be a way the company can structure its offerings to provide better value to job seekers and employers.

3 LinkedIn Tips for Job-Seekers

My hope is that LinkedIn will listen to the growing criticism about its Premium practice and amend its offerings. But until then, here are my three recommendations for making the most of LinkedIn as it exists today:

1. Don’t overpay for your LinkedIn membership. In addition to its basic, free membership, LinkedIn offers several paid plans for job seekers that range from $19.95 a month to a deluxe $49.95-a-month Job Seeker Plus plan. You can find details about the alternatives on LinkedIn.

A few readers commenting on Corcodilos’ article said they thought some of the upgrades were worth the money. One wrote that the ability to see who viewed his LinkedIn profile helped reveal how successful his contact actions are and that the ability to send “InMail” messages to anyone on LinkedIn was useful.

My view is that if you’re in the throes of a job search, go for the least expensive membership package that gives you the features you need. In the vast majority of cases, you can probably use LinkedIn effectively without spending a dime.

2. Limit your use of LinkedIn’s job boards (as well as other, similarly broad-based boards). As job boards go, LinkedIn’s is one of the better ones out there because of some nifty features, including a page that alerts you to openings at companies matching your profile. But as I’ve said above and in an earlier Next Avenue post, very few people find their jobs through job boards.

The best way to find a new job is by networking and getting referred to hiring managers. So go gangbusters using LinkedIn to network. But don’t spend more than 20 percent of your job-searching hours trolling for postings on LinkedIn or any other general job board.

3. Take a cue from LinkedIn and invest $29.95 per month in your career. I think LinkedIn is onto something by suggesting that you shell out about 30 bucks a month to keep your career healthy. Just don’t do it to make your resumé float to the top of a recruiter’s list.

I know that spending money can be rough when you’re out of work. But consider it an investment that will pay dividends down the road.

There are infinite ways you can put that $29.95 to good use: take a continuing education class at a community college to improve your skills; buy a former colleague lunch to suss out job openings; meet a contact over coffee for an informational interview; pay for a subscription to a trade journal or put the money toward the cost of attending an industry conference.

By networking and making yourself a better candidate, you’ll get to the top of the pile the old-fashioned way – no premium membership or special badges required.