Listing entries tagged with google
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has google already won? 01.05.2007, 1:34 AM
Rich Skrenta, an influential computer industry insider, currently co-founder and CEO of Topix.net and formerly a big player at Netscape, thinks it has, crowning Google king of the "third age of computing" (IBM and Microsoft being the first and second). Just the other day, there was a bit of discussion here about whether Google is becoming a bona fide monopoly -- not only by dint of its unrivaled search and advertising network, but through the expanding cloud of services that manage our various personal communication and information needs. Skrenta backs up my concern (though he mainly seems awed and impressed) that with time, reliance on these services (not just by individuals but by businesses and oranizations of all sizes) could become so total that there will effectively be no other choice:
Just as Microsoft used their platform monopoly to push into vertical apps, expect Google to continue to push into lucrative destination verticals -- shopping searches, finance, photos, mail, social media, etc. They are being haphazard about this now but will likely refine their thinking and execution over time. It's actually not inconceivable that they could eventually own all of the destination page views too. Crazy as it sounds, it's conceivable that they could actually end up owning the entire net, or most of what counts.
The meteoric ascendance of the Google brand -- synonymous in the public mind with best, quickest, smartest -- and the huge advantage the company has gained by becoming "the start page for the Internet," means that its continued dominance is all but assured. "Google is the environment." Others here think these predictions are overblown. To me they sound frighteningly plausible.
the ambiguity of net neutrality 01.03.2007, 12:14 PM
Meanwhile in a recent Wired column, Larry Lessig, also strongly in favor of net neutrality but at the same time hesitant about the robust government regulation it entails, does a bit of soul-searching about the landmark antitrust suit brought against Microsoft almost ten years ago. Then too he came down on the side of the regulators, but reflecting on it now he says might have counseled differently had he known about the potential of open source (i.e. Linux) to rival the corporate goliath. He worries that a decade from now he may arrive at similar regrets when alternative network strategies like community or municipal broadband may by then have emerged as credible competition to the telecoms and telcos. Still, seeing at present no "Linus Torvalds of broadband," he decides to stick with regulation.
Network neutrality shouldn't be trumpeted uncritically, and it's healthy and right for leading advocates like Lessig to air their concerns. But I think he goes too far in saying he was flat-out wrong about Microsoft in the late 90s. Even with the remarkable success of Linux, Microsoft's hegemony across personal and office desktops seems more or less unshaken a decade after the DOJ intervened.
Allow me to add another wrinkle. What probably poses a far greater threat to Microsoft than Linux is the prospect of a web-based operating system of the kind that Google is becoming, a development that can only be hastened by the preservation of net neutrality since it lets Google continue to claim an outsized portion of last-mile bandwidth at a bargain rate, allowing them to grow and prosper all the more rapidly. What seems like an obvious good to most reasonable people might end up opening the door wider for the next Microsoft. This is not an argument against net neutrality, simply a consideration of the complexity of getting what we wish and fight for. Even if we win, there will be other fights ahead. United States vs. Google?
people-powered search (part 1) 12.29.2006, 8:30 AM
Last week, the London Times reported that the Wikipedia founder, Jimbo Wales, was announcing a new search engine called "Wikiasari." This search engine would incorporate a new type of social ranking system and would rival Google and Yahoo in potential ad revenue. When the news first got out, the blogosphere went into a frenzy; many echoing inaccurate information - mostly in excitement - causing lots confusion. Some sites even printed dubious screenshots of what they thought was the search engine.
Alas, there were no real screenshots and there was no search engine... yet. Yesterday, unable to make any sense what was going on by reading the blogs, I looked through the developer mailing list and found this post by Jimmy Wales:
The press coverage this weekend has been a comedy of errors. Wikiasari was not and is not the intended name of this project... the London Times picked that off an old wiki page from back in the day when I was working on the old code base and we had a naming contest for it. [...] And then TechCrunch ran a screenshot of something completely unrelated, thus unfortunately perhaps leading people to believe that something is already built about about to be unveiled. No, the point of the project is to build something, not to unveil something which has already been built.
And in the Wikia search webpage he explains why:
Search is part of the fundamental infrastructure of the Internet. And, it is currently broken. Why is it broken? It is broken for the same reason that proprietary software is always broken: lack of freedom, lack of community, lack of accountability, lack of transparency. Here, we will change all that.
So there is no Google-killer just yet, but something is brewing.
From the details that we have so far, we know that this new search engine will be funded by Wikia Inc, Wales' for-profit and ad-driven MediaWiki hosting company. We also know that the search technology will be based on Nutch and Lucene - the same technology that powers Wikipedia's search. And we also know that the search engine will allow users to directly influence search results.
I found interesting that in the Wikia "about page", Wales suggests that he has yet to make up his mind on how things are going to work, so suggestions appear to be welcome.
Also, during the frenzy, I managed to find many interesting technologies that I think might be useful in making a new kind of search engine. Now that a dialog appears to be open and there is good reason to believe a potentially competitive search engine could be built, current experimental technologies might play an important role in the development of Wikia's search. Some questions that I think might be useful to ponder are:
Can current social bookmarking tools, like del.icio.us, provide a basis for determining "high quality" sites? Will using Wikipedia and it's external site citing engine make sense for determining "high quality" links? Will using a Digg-like, rating system result spamless or simply just low brow results? Will a search engine dependant on tagging, but no spider be useful? But the question I am most interested in is whether a large scale manual indexing lay the foundation for what could turn into the Semantic Web (Web 3.0)? Or maybe just Web 2.5?
The most obvious and most difficult challenge for Wikia, besides coming up with a good name and solid technology, will be with dealing with sheer size of the internet.
I've found that open-source communities are never as large or as strong as they appear. Wikipedia is one of the largest and one of the most successful online collaborative projects, yet just over 500 people make over 50% of all edits and about 1400 make about 75% of all edits. If Wikia's new search engine does not generate a large group of users to help index the web early on, this project will not survive; A strong online community, possibly in a magnitude we've never seen before, might be necessary to ensure that people-powered search is of any use.
future of the filter 12.22.2006, 6:55 AM
An article by Jon Pareles in the Times (December 10th, 2006) brings to mind some points that have been risen here throughout the year. One, is the "corporatization" of user-generated content, the other is what to do with all the material resulting from the constant production/dialogue that is taking place on the Internet.
Pareles summarizes the acquisition of MySpace by Rupert's Murdoch's News Corporation and YouTube by Google with remarkable clarity:
What these two highly strategic companies spent more than $2 billion on is a couple of empty vessels: brand-named, centralized repositories for whatever their members decide to contribute.
As he puts it, this year will be remembered as the year in which old-line media, online media and millions of individual web users agreed. I wouldn't use the term "agreed," but they definitely came together as the media giants saw the financial possibilities of individual self-expression generated in the Web. As it usually happens with independent creative products, large amounts of the art originated in websites such as MySpace and YouTube, borrow freely and get distributed and promoted outside of the traditional for-profit mechanisms. As Pareles says, "it's word of mouth that can reach the entire world." Nonetheless, the new acquisitions will bring a profit for some while the rest will supply material for free. But, problems arise when part of that production uses copyrighted material. While we have artists fighting immorally to extend copyright laws, we have Google paying copyright holders for material used in YouTube, but also fighting them.
The Internet has allowed for the democratization of creation and distribution, it has made the anonymous public while providing virtual meeting places for all groups of people. The flattening of the wax cylinder into a portable, engraved surface that produced sound when played with a needle, brought the music hall, the clubs and cabarets into the home, but it also gave rise to the entertainment business. Now the CD burner, the MP3, and online tools have brought the recording studio into the home. Interestingly enough, far from promoting isolation, the Internet has generated dialogue. YouTube is not a place for merely watching dubious videos; it is also a repository of individual reactions. Something similar is happening with film, photography and books. But, what to do with all that? Pareles sees the proliferation of blogs and the user-generated play lists as a sort of filter from which the media moguls are profiting: "Selection, a time-consuming job, has been outsourced. What's growing is the plentitude not just of user-generated content, but also of user-filtered content." But he adds, "Mouse-clicking individuals can be as tasteless, in the aggregate, as entertainment professionals." What is going to happen as private companies become the holders of those filters?
worth reading 12.17.2006, 8:52 PM
In 2005, Jean-Noël Jeanneney, the President of the Bibliothè que Nationale (France's equivalent of the Library of Congress) wrote one of the most trenchant critiques of Google's intention to digitize millions of books from a number of major libraries. Jeanneney expanded on his original essay and this past October, The University of Chicago Press published a translation of Google and the Myth of Universal Knowledge: A View from Europe. In this December's D-Lib Magazine, there's a superb precis and analysis of Jeanneney's book by Dave Bearman.
microsoft launches live search books 12.14.2006, 4:41 PM
Windows Live Search Books, Microsoft's answer to Google Book Search, is officially up and running and looks and feels pretty much the same as its nemesis. Being a Microsoft product, the interface is clunkier, and they have a bit of catching up to do in terms of navigation and search options. The one substantive difference is that Live Search is mostly limited to out-of-copyright books -- i.e. pre-1923
1927 editions of public domain works. So the little they do have in there is fully accessible, with PDFs available for download. Like Google's public domain books, however, the scans are of pretty poor quality, and not searchable. Readers point out that Microsoft, unlike Google, does in fact include a layer of low-quality but entirely searchable OCR text in its public domain downloads.
no, dammit that's not what i meant . . . . 12.03.2006, 11:00 PM
I had a very interesting discussion in London the other day with Seb Mary, a brilliant young woman who is exploring ways of using the online world to encourage new forms of community in the offline world. Mary's most exciting initiatives, which are quite relevant to our interests here at the institute, are still under wraps and i promised not to write about them yet, but she did mention having coined the phrase "offline social software." Amazingly when i typed the phrase into Google i got back "Did you mean "online social software." Is Google trying to tell us something? Is the very concept of an offline existence unthinkable in the Googlesphere?
brewster kahle on the google book search "nightmare" 11.28.2006, 7:14 AM
"Pretty much Google is trying to set themselves up as the only place to get to these materials; the only library; the only access. The idea of having only one company control the library of human knowledge is a nightmare."
From a video interview with Elektrischer Reporter (click image to view).
(via Google Blogoscoped)
google makes slight improvements to book search interface 11.28.2006, 6:32 AM
Google has added a few interface niceties to its Book Search book viewer. It now loads multiple pages at a time, giving readers the option of either scrolling down or paging through left to right. There's also a full screen reading mode and a "more about this book" link taking you to a profile page with links to related titles plus references and citations from other books or from articles in Google Scholar. Also on the profile page is a searchable keyword cluster of high-incidence names or terms from the text.
Above is the in-copyright Signet Classic edition of Billy Budd and Other Tales by Melville, which contains only a limited preview of the text. You can also view the entire original 1856 edition of Piazza Tales as scanned from the Stanford Library. Public domain editions like this one can now be viewed with facing pages.
Still a conspicuous lack of any annotation or social reading tools.
Posted by ben vershbow at 6:32 AM
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tags: copyright , digitization , ebooks , google , google_book_search , interface , libraries , library , melville , publicdomain , reading
terrain as browsing mechanism 11.21.2006, 10:04 AM
Ben's post last week, book as terrain, about converting any image to an interactive map with hotspots contained a link to a blog which collects info about all sorts of google map mashups. Ben's post was about using book pages as geographic jumping-off points. However, as i read the endlessly fascinating list of other sorts of mashups it occurred to me that in addition to "book as terrain" we could also look at the idea of "Google map mashups" as a genuinely new form of expression. As I read through the wonderfully annotated list I realized that they cover the full gamut of subjects you would find in a bookstore . . . . Fiction, Non-Fiction, Travel, History, Sports, Games, Religion, Personal Growth, and Crime.
It's interesting to realize that as our experience moves relentlessly into the virtual domain, that geography, which in the past was firmly rooted in the "real," increasingly becomes the mechanism for organizing our activiites in virtual space.
book as terrain 11.16.2006, 10:19 AM
People have done all sorts of interesting things with Google maps, but this one I particularly like. Maplib lets you upload any image (the larger and higher res the better) into the Google map interface, turning the picture into a draggable, zoomable and annotatable terrain -- a crude mashup tool that nonetheless suggests new spacial ways of navigating text.
I did a quick and dirty image mapping of W.H. Auden's "Musee des Beaux Arts" onto Breughel's "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus," casting the shepherd as poet. Click the markers and then the details links to read the poem (hint: start with the shepherd).
As you can see, they give you the code to embed image maps on other sites. You can post comments on the individual markers right here on if:book, or if you go to the Maplib site itself you can add your own markers.
I quite like this one that someone uploaded of a southerly view of the Italian peninsula (unfortunately it seems to start larger images off-center):
And here's an annotated Korean barbecue (yum):
google aquires jotspot 11.02.2006, 8:17 AM
Adding wikis to its evolving online office suite.