Monthly Archives: January 2010

Privacy Search Engine Offers Anonymous Web Browsing

Search engine firm Startpage, and its E.U. brand, Ixquick, has released a new proxy service that let’s users search the web in privacy. You can now browse Web sites anonymously, without sharing any private or personally identifiable information to the Web sites they view.

When you conduct a search on Startpage, you will see a clickable “proxy” option below each search results. When this is selected, Startpage acts as a go-between to retrieve the page and display it in a privacy-protected window.

“People are more concerned about online data retention policies than ever before,” said CEO Robert Beens.

“We wanted to offer them a useful tool and this proxy is a logical extension of our services. A search engine is a starting point for people to visit other pages. Now our users can take the privacy they get with Startpage to the next step, and go privately to the sites they have found as well. This proxy completes the total search privacy picture.”

According to Startpage, it does not record IP addresses, make a record of users’ searches or record details about proxy usage.

Google Announces Unicode Progress

Google made an announcement regarding Unicode. Google users will like the news because the searches should now turn up additional useful results.

On Google’s official blog, Mark Davis explained that, “[T]he characters ‘fi’ can either be represented as two characters (‘f’ and ‘i’), or a special display form ‘fi’. A Google search for [financials] or [office] used to not see these as equivalent – to the software they would just look like *nancials and of*ce.”

He went on to add, “But no longer – after extensive testing, we just recently turned on support for these and thousands of other characters; your searches will now also find these documents.”

Google’s tracking Unicode usage based on its index and Google believes that Unicode has nearly earned the “giant” moniker.

Google Celebrates Data Privacy Day

On January 28 Google celebrated Data Privacy Day (or known as Data Protection Day). To celebrate, Google decided to publish its Privacy Principles.

Google has five Privacy Principles and considers them important enough to capitalize the overarching term. The official explanation stated, “Our Privacy Principles help guide decisions we make at every level of our company, so we can help protect and empower our users while we fulfill our ongoing mission to organize the world’s information.”

The five principles are as follows:
1. Use information to provide our users with valuable products and services.
2. Develop products that reflect strong privacy standards and practices.
3. Make the collection of personal information transparent.
4. Give users meaningful choices to protect their privacy.
5. Be a responsible steward of the information we hold.

It’s best to know that these Principles aren’t new. All Google did was make some longstanding guidelines public. On the Google’s official blog, it referred to “privacy-enhancing initiatives and features” this morning and promised, “[T]here is more in store for 2010.”

Google has increased its sitemaps limit from 1,000 to 50,000. On Google’s Webmaster’s forum thread, a discussion was made back in April 2009 where Google employee Jonathan Simon said that each sitemap index file could include 1,000 sitemaps.

Recently David Harkness posted to the same thread and pointed to the official Google documentation for sitemap errors, which says under the “Too many Sitemaps” error:

The list of Sitemaps in your Sitemap index exceeds the maximum allowed. A Sitemap index can contain no more than 50,000 Sitemaps. Split your Sitemap index into multiple Sitemap index files and ensure that each contains no more than 50,000 Sitemaps. Then, resubmit your Sitemap index files individually.

Simon confirmed the larger number, who came back to the conversation where he stated,

“Thanks for resurfacing this thread as we’ve improved our capacity a bit since then. The limit used to be 1,000. The Help Center article you point to is correct. The current maximum number of Sitemaps that can be referenced in a Sitemap Index file is 50,000.”

Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Roundtable, came across this post pointed out, “This is a huge increase in capacity…Still, each Sitemap file can contain up to 50,000 URLs, so technically 50,000 multiplied by 50,000 is 2,500,000,000 or 2.5 billion URLs can be submitted to Google via Sitemaps.”

Google Announces Another Android Device Giveaway

Game developers might hold Google and Android in higher regard after March 9th and 10th. Google announced that it will give away a bunch of Android devices on those dates.

Google’s employed this strategy to build up hype leading up to the giveaway. For example, the 4,000 people who attended Google I/O received HTC Magics free of charge.

Now, “Google and GDC will . . . be providing complimentary Android phones to attendees who register for All Access or Tutorials and Summits passes by the Early Bird deadline of February 4, 2010. Qualified attendees will receive either a Nexus One or a Verizon Droid by Motorola, so they can quickly apply what they learn from the various Android sessions,” as stated on the Android Developers Blog.

Has Google Begun Changing How it Indexes the Web?

Google announced last summer a new project titled, “Caffeine,” which the company described as a “re-write of Google’s web search architecture.”

Before the holidays, Google made it a point to let everyone know that Caffeine won’t be rolled out until after the holidays. January at the absolute earliest. They did this because Google didn’t want to shake up everything during an important time for business.

They let everyone know about its intentions at PubCon in November. Recently, Google’s Matt Cutts posted a video running through his presentation from the event on his blog. Through the slideshow, it covers how much more than just Caffeine. It’s definitely worth checking out

Google Launches Cost-Per-Call Tracking for TV Ads

Google launched a new feature for Google TV Ads, where advertisers can automatically receive cost-per-call data through the service for TV campaigns that utilize Google supplied toll-free phone numbers. Google says this feature was designed to give TV advertisers access to richer performance data. This will allow more effective optimization based on real-time call data.

“The system tracks incoming calls and matches each call down to the network, daypart and even program level,” explains Google’s TV Ads team. “Advertisers will find these metrics in their campaign ‘Targets’ tab which reports data like ‘Live Inquiries,’ “Drag Inquiries” (calls that come in a significant time after an ad has aired) and cost-per-inquiry.”

“Our system takes into account the number of impressions, network, and time of day for each ad to help match calls as accurately as possible,” they add. “In addition, the algorithm has been designed to predict call response with increasing accuracy as it learns from your data over time.”
To use the feature, advertisers should log into AdWords, create a TV campaign, and sign up for one of Google’s 866 numbers (in the phone numbers tab). Then, designate which ad creative will correspond with the number in the Ads tab.

According to Google, advertisers will see data appearing in the cost-per-inquiry columns in the Targets tab of each campaign within a few hours.

Google Voice Makes Way to iPhone, Palm WebOS

Google is launching the Google Voice application for both the iPhone and Palm WebOS. The program is an HTML5 app, where it provides users with a “fast and versatile” mobile experience.

“For example, AppCache lets you interact with web apps without a network connection and local databases allow you to store data locally on the device, so you don’t lose data even when you close the browser,” says Google in a post to its Mobile blog.

“For quick access to the most important features like ‘Dialer’, ‘Compose SMS’, ‘Inbox’ or ‘Contacts,’ you can add shortcuts to your iPhone home screen or Palm Launcher — so cheap calls and messaging will be just a single click away. And because the Google Voice web app uses advanced features of modern HTML5 browsers, it offers native app-like performance and speed,” Google adds.

Not only can users access a streamlined version of their Google Voice inbox, but with the new app, they’re able to display their Google Voice number as the outbound caller ID. You’re also able to receive text message for free and place international calls at Google Voice’s rates.

YAHOO!’s Q4 Financial Results Draw Smiles

YAHOO!’s first quarter earnings report was released and the numbers aren’t too drastic or surprising. YAHOO! reported $1.26 billion in net revenue and earnings of 11 cents per share, versus the predictions of $1.23 billion and 11 cents per share. Basically, the numbers are good solid numbers.

There’s more good news. The outlook for next quarter looks like it’ll be good as well, with Carol Bartz saying, “Our business has positive momentum and we feel good as we head into 2010. We’re pleased that the midpoint of our Q1 revenue outlook marks the first quarter of year-over-year growth in six quarters.”

YAHOO!’s stock is up; shares have risen 1.88 percent so far in after-hours trading.

Details About How Google Handles Natural Language Search

Google has posted a piece to the Official Google Blog discussing Google’s system for understanding synonyms in search. Author Steven Baker said, “An irony of computer science is that tasks humans struggle with can be performed easily by computer programs, but tasks humans can perform effortlessly remain difficult for computers.”

Understanding human language has been one of Google’s biggest issues in artificial intelligence and they key to returning the best possible search results. Even though it’s far from perfect, Google has spent a good amount of times into this.

Here are some things that has to do with Google’s handling of synonyms that people should keep in mind:

1. Google routinely monitors its system for handling synonyms with regard to search result relevance.

2. Google says synonyms affect 70% of user searches across over 100 languages.

3. For every 50 searches where synonyms significantly improve search results, Google has only found one “truly bad” synonym.

4. Google doesn’t fix bad synonyms by hand, but rather makes changes to its algorithms to try and correct the problem. Baker hopes this will be fixed automatically in the future.

5. Google has recently made a change to how its synonyms are displayed: in SERP snippets, terms are bolded, just like the actual words you searched for.

6. Google uses “many techniques” to extract synonyms. Its systems analyze perabytes of data to build “an intricate understanding of what words can mean in different contexts”

7. Some words or initials can have tons of different meanings, and Google uses other words in the query to help determine the correct ones. For example, there are over 20 possible meanings for the term “GM” that Google’s system knows something about.