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Google Bans Torrent Search Extensions For Chrome Over Piracy Concerns

Google has removed several torrent search extensions from the Chrome Web Store because they could enable “unauthorized access” to copyrighted content. The decision, which may have come after pressure from the entertainment industry, is a peculiar one since the extensions are no more infringing than Google’s own search bar. “This is really a sad day for web freedom as Google has now taken the stance of guilty until proven innocent,” a disappointed site operator comments

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Posted by plates55 - December 13, 2013 at 2:47 pm

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Will Google Docs kill off Microsoft Office?

For years, Microsoft has stockpiled a large amount of cash from sales of its Office productivity software suite.

Yet over the past year, something peculiar happened. Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) has made it easier for consumers to access Office via the cloud and online downloads, regardless of what computer you’re using. In the past week, Office even enabled real-time, collaborative document editing for its free offering, Office Web Apps.

Why the big push into making these offline money makers into cheaper cloud services? Blame Google (GOOG, Fortune 500).

When Google Docs first launched in 2006, it was mostly a curiosity. Cloud-based services were not yet a way of life, and support with Microsoft’s Office formats was minimal. But Google Docs has been improved upon bit by bit over the past few years and is now an extremely useful and increasingly popular collection of software.

Google Docs is no longer a curiosity. It’s a legitimate threat to Microsoft.

Google’s productivity tools may lack some of Office’s advanced features, but are easier and simpler to use than anything Microsoft offers — especially when it comes to the cloud-centric features.

Microsoft is still a huge player in this business of course. It claims that Office is installed on more than 1 billion machines. In 2012, Gartner estimated that Office had a 90% market share in the enterprise market.

If you focus on the cloud, however, the story changes.

The next decade looks like Google’s to lose. Gartner estimates that in 10 years, there will be 1.2 billion people using productivity suite services … but more than half of them will be using a cloud-based productivity suite of some sort. Gartner’s research also shows Google quickly gobbling up market share in that space. It could be as high as 50%.

Google recently disclosed that there are 120 million accounts using Google Drive (which houses the Docs services), and 5 million businesses and institutions using the Google Apps platform (the latter is not a free service).

As of September, Microsoft has sold 2 million Office 365 Home Premium subscriptions, which allows the suite to be installed on 5 different devices concurrently. Separately, it says that 60% of Fortune 500 business have purchased enterprise versions of Office 365. It also claims to have 50 million users for its Office Web Apps.

Related: Microsoft is the biggest iPhone 5S loser

But Google’s suite is quickly becoming the standard for tech startups, small businesses and newer large companies. Demographics are on Google’s side as well. Those who have grown up with the Internet don’t really think twice about using something that is free, saves your work in a centrally accessible location, and makes it easy to share and collaborate with others.

Office is slowly losing its status as the software of choice. It’s becoming something that people just use when they need specialized formatting … or when they’re dealing with someone who only uses Office.

Still, even that is changing. Google’s 2012 acquisition of Quickoffice was made to help to bridge the format divide between the two services. And it’s even possible to use Google Docs without an Internet connection.

According to a Google spokesperson, the goal isn’t to match the Office suite feature for feature. While Google still wants to appeal to the vast majority of traditional Office users, the company is more keen on getting to the point where file format is no longer an issue.

Google can afford to give away software for free. Can Microsoft? Google makes money off its productivity suite by selling web ads. But there is a bigger goal as well. The company is offering services like Google Docs in order to keep users close to its other, more lucrative offerings such as Gmail, Search, Chrome and Maps.

But Office remains a cash cow for Microsoft. Office sales are about a third of the company’s total annual revenue. It is not in a position to simply make Office free. With Office 365, Microsoft is charging $100 a year, which guarantees perpetual updates, and has produced modest, but encouraging rewards to the tune of $1.5 billion a quarter. But it’s awfully difficult to beat free.

And Microsoft doesn’t just face competition from Google. Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) recently launched its own cloud-based version of its iWork suite. It’s giving the mobile iOS version away for free.

Related: Microsoft Office 2013 has nice upgrades, but save your cash

For now, Office is still the overwhelming leader. Still, the tides are shifting. Microsoft probably knows it can’t simply rely on its existing install base sticking around just because Office is the standard. In fact, Microsoft should know that from experience.

Microsoft’s web browser market share eroded when Firefox, and later Chrome, took center stage. On the enterprise side, its Windows Mobile platform has joined BlackBerry (BBRY) as a victim of Corporate America’s embracing of iOS and Google’s Android.

This war is far from over, but Microsoft has its work cut out for it. This battle is going to be fought and won in the cloud. And Google, with its years of experience offering consumer services in the cloud, has the home field advantage. To top of page

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Posted by plates55 - November 15, 2013 at 7:12 am

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Google patenting an electronic ‘throat tattoo’

A new patent says an electronic tattoo could be attached to a user's throat or on a collar.
A new patent says an electronic tattoo could be attached to a user’s throat or on a collar.

 

 

CNN) — It looks like Google Glass was just the beginning. Google now appears to be aiming a few inches lower, working on a temporary electronic tattoo that would stick to the user’s throat.

Google-owned Motorola Mobility has filed for a patent, published last week, for a system “that comprises an electronic skin tattoo capable of being applied to a throat region of a body.”

The patent says the tattoo would communicate with smartphones, gaming devices, tablets and wearable tech like Google Glass via a Bluetooth-style connection and would include a microphone and power source. The idea is that wearers could communicate with their devices via voice commands without having to wear an earpiece or the the Glass headset.

And how’s this for future tech? It could even be used as a lie detector.

“Optionally, the electronic skin tattoo can further include a galvanic skin response detector to detect skin resistance of a user,” the 10-page document reads. “It is contemplated that a user that may be nervous or engaging in speaking falsehoods may exhibit different galvanic skin response than a more confident, truth telling individual.”

“Galvanic” is a reference to the way some surfaces, even skin, conduct electricity.

Google explains mystery barge

In images attached to the filing, the tattoo appears to be between a postage stamp and a Band-Aid in size. The filing says that in addition to sticking via an adhesive to the throat, the tattoo could go on a collar or a band around the user’s neck.

Other possible uses include making both incoming and outgoing audio clearer. That could mean anything from making smartphone conversations clearer in a crowded room to being able to listen to music without earphones.

And we can’t quite figure out the use case for this one, but: “the electronic tattoo can also be applied to an animal as well.”

Digital tattoos and mind-reading headphones

With Google Glass, the company has moved to be at the forefront of the rapidly emerging trend in wearable tech. Glass is a wearable computer with a smartphone-like display that lets users text, browse the Web, take photos and run other apps, all hands free.

The latest version rolling out to field testers includes an ear bud, in response to complaints from some that the first version’s bone-conduction sound system didn’t work well. It’s not hard to envision the throat tattoo as an eventual answer to that complaint.

Other wearable tech either on the market or the horizon includes smartwatches from Samsung and Sony, with Google, Apple and Microsoft expected to join the fray soon.

A Motorola spokesman said the company has no comment about the patent filing at this time.

YouTube faces backlash for Google+ integration

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Posted by plates55 - November 13, 2013 at 2:24 pm

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NSA infiltrates links to Yahoo, Google data centers worldwide, Snowden documents say

In this slide from a National Security Agency presentation on “Google Cloud Exploitation,” a sketch shows where the “Public Internet” meets the internal “Google Cloud” where user data resides. Two engineers with close ties to Google exploded in profanity when they saw the drawing.

By Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani, Published: October 30 E-mail the writer

The National Security Agency has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world, according to documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and interviews with knowledgeable officials.

By tapping those links, the agency has positioned itself to collect at will from hundreds of millions of user accounts, many of them belonging to Americans. The NSA does not keep everything it collects, but it keeps a lot.

According to a top-secret accounting dated Jan. 9, 2013, the NSA’s acquisitions directorate sends millions of records every day from internal Yahoo and Google networks to data warehouses at the agency’s headquarters at Fort Meade, Md. In the preceding 30 days, the report said, field collectors had processed and sent back 181,280,466 new records — including  “metadata,” which would indicate who sent or received e-mails and when, as well as content such as text, audio and video.

The NSA’s principal tool to exploit the data links is a project called MUSCULAR, operated jointly with the agency’s British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters . From undisclosed interception points, the NSA and the GCHQ are copying entire data flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information among the data centers of the Silicon Valley giants.

The infiltration is especially striking because the NSA, under a separate program known as PRISM, has front-door access to Google and Yahoo user accounts through a court-approved process.

The MUSCULAR project appears to be an unusually aggressive use of NSA tradecraft against flagship American companies. The agency is built for high-tech spying, with a wide range of digital tools, but it has not been known to use them routinely against U.S. companies.

In a statement, the NSA said it is “focused on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets only.”

“NSA applies Attorney General-approved processes to protect the privacy of U.S. persons — minimizing the likelihood of their information in our targeting, collection, processing, exploitation, retention, and dissemination,” it said.

In a statement, Google’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, said the company has “long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping” and has not provided the government with access to its systems.

“We are outraged at the lengths to which the government seems to have gone to intercept data from our private fiber networks, and it underscores the need for urgent reform,” he said.

A Yahoo spokeswoman said, “We have strict controls in place to protect the security of our data centers, and we have not given access to our data centers to the NSA or to any other government agency.”

Under PRISM, the NSA gathers huge volumes of online communications records by legally compelling U.S. technology companies, including Yahoo and Google, to turn over any data that match court-approved search terms. That program, which was first disclosed by The Washington Post and the Guardian newspaper in Britain, is authorized under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act  and overseen by the Foreign ­Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).

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Posted by plates55 - October 31, 2013 at 4:39 pm

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Google rejects music industry request to remove Pirate Bay homepage

google-pirate-bay-removal_si

 

The Pirate Bay has long been a thorn in the side of copyright holders, but when Britain’s record industry trade association asked Google to remove the notorious file-sharing site from its homepage, the search engine refused to comply.

The British Recorded Music Industry (BPI) has helped spearhead  efforts to reduce the visibility of piracy, having sent Google  more than 30 million requests to remove copyright offenders over  the past year, Torrent Freak reports.

The BPI, which comprises the big three record companies (Warner  Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Universal Music  Group), hundreds of independents representing thousands of labels  as well as associated manufactures and distributors, is every bit  the stake holder in the anti-piracy crusade as the Recording  Industry Association of America (RIAA) in the US, albeit less  well-known stateside.

Last week, the BPI sent a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)  notice containing over 2,000 URLs which allegedly infringe the US  law criminalizing production and dissemination of technology,  devices, or services intended to circumvent measures that control  access to copyrighted works.

The most prominent site mentioned in the request was the prolific  peer-to-peer file-sharing site The Pirate Bay, which has long  been in the crosshairs of copyright holders.

 

Google, however, refused to comply with the BPI’s request, making  The Pirate Bay homepage the only URL in the entire notice where  no proscriptive action was taken.

The catch is that while search results on The Pirate Bay provides  links to hundreds of thousands of infringing titles, its own  homepage in fact provides no links to pirated content.

This means that while The Pirate Bay’s search results pages may  not show up in the Google index, the site’s homepage meets these  standards, and should not be excluded.

Google responded to the BPI request to take down thepiratebay.sx  with a resounding “No Action Taken.”

Google offered the following response

 

Number of URLs specified in this copyright removal request  that we did not remove because we did not find the specified  copyright infringement; we already reviewed the URLs in a  previous request; or the URLs were malformed or otherwise led to  an error.”

While Google might be accused of being soft on piracy, they did  in fact take down the other 29 unique domains on the BPI request,  which spans 2,055 URLS.

 

However, the RIAA had previously been unimpressed by the search  giant’s efforts, giving it a less than stellar assessment in a  February 2013 ‘Report Card on Google’s demotion of Pirate Sites.’

“On August 10, 2012, Google announced that it would take into  account in its search result rankings the number of valid  copyright removal notices it has received for a given site. Per  its announcement, “sites with high numbers of removal notices may  appear lower” in its search results. The result of the change  should be to “help users find legitimate, quality sources of  content more easily.” Six months later, we have found no evidence  that Google’s policy has had a demonstrable impact on demoting  sites with large amounts of piracy. These sites consistently  appear at the top of Google’s search results for popular songs or  artists.”

Torrent Freak notes that this is not the first time The Pirate  Bay has been targeted with a takedown request. Four years ago the  popular P2P site was taken down briefly after Google received a  DMCA complaint, although it was quickly reinstated.

The popular blog further noted the overall number of DMCA  requests has been on the rise over the last several months, with  the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) taking aim at  streaming portals with this method.
Google has thus far been unwilling to comply with many such  requests.

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Posted by plates55 - September 17, 2013 at 9:25 pm

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Google Hopes to Make Friends with a More Social Search

Appearing atop Google’s search results used to be the exclusive right of Web celebrities and Fortune 500 companies. Starting this week, your mom is just as likely to show up at the top of those results—providing she uses Google’s still fledgling social network, Google+.

The change represents a fundamental shift, as Google’s algorithm-driven search is going through a social overhaul as it attempts to head off the threat of disruption from socially focused companies, such as Facebook and LinkedIn. The new Google service, called “Search, plus Your World,” is part of that effort.

Over the next few days, Google will start adding information that has been shared publicly and privately on Google+ to its search results.

This means you might see a picture of a friend’s dog when searching for Pomeranians, or a restaurant recommended by a friend when you search for nearby eateries. Even if you aren’t a Google+ user, Google search results will show content posted publicly on the social network that it judges to be relevant—profile pages and pages dedicated to particular topics.

The goal, says Google fellow Ben Smith, is to deliver more personally relevant results. “We’re interested in making Google search as good as we can,” says Smith. “But we need to know who your friends are and what your connections are. Google+ provides a great way of managing your connections and your friends and lets you make your search results better.”

The only problem is, until more people start using Google+, these search results will include just a small fraction of the social information available online. The rest exists in unsearchable silos owned by Facebook, LinkedIn, and other smaller social media companies. Facebook presents a particular problem for Google because the vast amounts of personal information that its users post can be turned into powerful ways of filtering information and finding recommendations (see “Social Indexing” for more on this effort).

“Over the past several years, people have been benefiting from a growing diversity in the channels they use to receive information,” says Jon Kleinberg, a professor at Cornell University who researches the way information spreads online. “During this time, a major axis along which our information channels have developed is the social one.”

In June 2011, Google launched a way for users to recommend web pages by hitting a “+1” button next to a search result. These buttons can also be added to Web pages, where recommendations will feed back into search results. The approach is similar to Facebook’s “Like” button.

 

In April 2011, Google launched Google+ as a direct competitor to Facebook. The site won compliments for some of its features, like the ability to put contacts into different “circles” so that information is shared in a more controlled way. But, after rapid early uptake, Google has struggled to capture market share from Facebook, and has around 60 million active users, compared to Facebook’s more than 800 million.

The new features may not only make Google search more useful, but also encourage greater use of Google+. Showing Google+ profile pages and topic pages prominently could encourage people to create their own profile and topic pages.

The new service pulls in social information only from Google+ to start with, but, Smith says, it could include other, non-Google sources in the future.

Google is working hard to make its most popular services more social. Whereas an algorithmic approach to finding and sorting online information was once a source of nerdy pride for the company because of its objectivity, Google is fast reinventing itself as a business that values the suggestions of its users and their friends.

How people will come to use social signals to find useful information isn’t yet clear, though. “The most natural mode of use is still fairly up in the air, and it will be fascinating to see how people’s online behavior evolves in this dimension over the next few years,” Kleinberg says.

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Posted by plates55 - January 10, 2012 at 8:00 pm

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With Search+, Google Fires Another Shot At Facebook

LAS VEGAS — If last year’s launch of Google+ was the search giant’s first shot in the social wars, consider the new Search+ product its Blitzkrieg.

Launched Tuesday, Google’s new Search+ initiative integrates results culled from your Google+ social network connections into Google search queries, a major step into providing relevant social content into the company’s namesake product.

When you search for a term — say, “Netflix,” for example — the new product will serve up private and public instances of “Netflix” pulled from people you’re connected with on Google+, including photos, links and status updates. In addition, relevant Google+ profiles, personalities and brand pages will also be folded into results.

So a search for Netflix could yield the official site, a news story about the company, a link to a friend from Google+ talking about Netflx, and the like. Further, all of these results are tailored specifically to those friends in your network, so each person’s results will be personalized and completely different.

See also: ‘Has Google Popped the Filter Bubble?‘ By Steven Levy

It’s a huge move for Google, a company which made its bilions indexing web pages with its advanced algorithms. The company’s origins are rooted in text-based search, using Larry Page’s now-famous “Page Rank” system to create a hierarchy of relevancy for when users entered search queries. Over the years, search progressed: Google added video, images, its Instant product, and the like. The early Oughts gave rise to an age of search, so much so that “Googling” was deemed a verb in our official English lexicon.

But as the decade progressed, another phenomenon began to take over — social. Facebook grew from a small site created in Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard dorm room to a global presence, now boasting over 800 million users. Twitter sees millions of tweets pass through its pipes monthly. Social network LinkedIn is one of the most watched companies in the Valley. And social gaming giant Zynga just filed a multi-billion dollar IPO in December.

And as users flocked to the platform, a different kind of search evolved. It was a search based on items which users didn’t even know they wanted. Facebook begat “likes,” a way of notifying others that you like (or are at the very least interested in) something. ‘Likes’ spread fast, and liking became another way to find new and relevant content from friends.

And as Facebook widened its reach over time, Google fell further and further behind.

“One of the signals that we haven’t take as much advantage of as we should have is that all of [our search results] were written by people,” said Jack Menzel, director of search product management, in an interview at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). “And you, the searcher, are a unique person, looking for info specifically relevant to you.”

So the introduction of Google’s new Search+ additions ultimately serve a twofold purpose: First, Google is using the strength of its insanely popular search product to bolster its fledgling social network. As of today, Google+ has a user base somewhere in the tens of millions — far behind that of Facebook. Considering the millions upon millions of search queries entered every single day, and the implications of folding Google+ information into those results, it’s a easy way to leverage the power of Google’s existing properties into beefing up its young one.

Second, it provides Google with an entire cache of new information relevance. Google and Facebook made headlines last year after Google alluded to issues with indexing Facebook users’ individual profile data for Google’s search results. In vague terms, Google search seemed limited in how much Facebook data it was privy to. And in an age where social sharing has grown far more relevant than ever before, that’s a huge chunk of pertinent information.

So Google has decided to go within for that data. User posts and data can now be searched for relevant content, and served up to individuals. While it’s nowhere near as extensive as Facebook’s treasure trove of personal data, it’s a fine start for Google’s push into social.

The new products could, however, yield a number of problems for Google. For instance, if a user searches for a recent New York Times article using Google and search results yield both the article itself and a post from a Google+ friend who shared the article, the user may click on the friend’s shared result, possibly read the headline and not end up going to the publisher’s site, instead sticking inside of the Google+ environment. That means fewer clicks for The New York Times, and few ad dollars in the long run.

Further, Google has never had much luck in the realm of privacy, and adding personal results to search queries could cause user upheaval. Privacy scares and Google aren’t strangers.

But Google insists these features aren’t going to be invasive. “With your permission, and knowing about who your friends are, we can provide more tailored recommendations, and search quality will be better for consumers,” Google Chairman Eric Schmidt told reporters last fall.

The company has built a number of safeguards into the product itself to appease privacy wonks as well. First, by default all searches will be secured by SSL encryption, protecting from others trying to peep your queries. Second, it’s all opt-in. There’s a little Search+ toggle button available on the page, so you can turn it on or off depending on if you want the personal results to appear. And finally, you can completely turn it off if you don’t want the new features integrated into your existing Google searches.

In all, it’s Google’s answer to recent developments in Facebook’s expanding universe. As Facebook opened up its graph to integrate better with application developers last year, huge services and publishers have flocked to the platform, and sharing has grown exponentially. If Google has classically wielded ‘search’ as its weapon, Facebook’s ‘sharing’ was its own tool of destruction.

But with Google’s new products, social search aims to become a stronger tool, integrating Google’s past strengths with what looks to be a very social future

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Posted by plates55 - January 10, 2012 at 12:14 pm

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Google buys 217 more patents from IBM to bolster IP portfolio

Google purchased another round of patents from IBM in the last week of 2011, adding 217 filings as the search giant looks to strengthen its existing IP portfolio to help protect itself in an increasingly litigious tech industry.
A report on Tuesday revealed that the United States Patent and Trademark Office officially recorded Google’s acquisition of 188 granted patents and 29 published pending applications from IBM in its patent assignment database on Dec. 30, 2011, according to blog SEO by the Sea.
The patents, which were effectively assigned to Google on Dec. 28, 2011, cover a variety of topics pertinent to the company’s internet business including blade servers, server load balancing, email administration and network performance.
Also found in the batch of intellectual property are patents useful to Google’s Android smartphone platform, like portable OS updating, transferring of web applications between devices, voice based keyword searching and a computer phone patent.
The keyword searching patent is of particular interest as Apple’s Siri digital assistant is seen as a key feature of the company’s iPhone 4S, with at least one market analyst saying that it was one of the main drivers of November sales for the new handset. Google is rumored to be working on a Siri competitor for its Android OS, naming the project “Majel” after Star Trek’s on-board computer.
Google has been on an IBM patent buying spree over the last year, with a July 2011 acquisition of 1,030 filings being followed by purchases of 1,022 filings and 41 filings in August and September, respectively.
The financials of the patent buy has yet to be revealed, and both Google and IBM don’t normally disclose the details of such transactions

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Posted by plates55 - January 4, 2012 at 8:20 am

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