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Misunderstanding Google

Oh dear, someone really should have a little chat with the Guardian Leader writers.

The proposed merger has been about how other players could combat Google\’s increasing arm lock on search and the El Dorado of advertising that goes with it.

Google does indeed have the lion\’s share of search activity on the web. It also has the lion\’s share of contextual advertising on the web. And indeed, the excellence of the search engine when applied to where to place the advertisements is one of the explanations for the dominance of that advertising arm.

But the number of people who use Google to search is very little to do with the dominance of that advertising arm: the vast majority of the advertising revenues come from pages which Google itself does not serve up. Rather, it\’s Adwords and Adsense running on other peoples\’ pages which form the backbone of Google\’s finances.

If you get confused between those two things then you\’re going to end up, as The G does here, worrying about the wrong things. Google\’s dominance of search really isn\’t a problem: its dominance of advertising might potentially be.

I think the confusion might actually come from the newspaper mindset itself. In order to have the dominant position in classified ads (a rough and ready analogy for Adwords) a newspaper also needs to have the dominant circulation figures. But the web allows disintermediation, so this is no longer true. Google could keep the advertising dominance even if circulation (ie, share of the search market) fell, something that simply wouldn\’t be true in the newspaper world and mindset.

The End of the Internet

You know, this sounds very much like a bunch of producers insisting that someone else should pay for their business to succeed.

The internet could grind to a halt within two years under the pressure of booming demand for online video, experts have warned.

Soaring visitor numbers to video websites such as YouTube and the BBC\’s iPlayer are putting the copper wires, which underpin parts of the internet, under severe strain.

Experts warn that unless billions of pounds is spent on upgrading the web\’s infrastructure, it could slow down or even collapse. An internet meltdown would have a disastrous impact on the economy.

Now I\’ll admit to no great technical knowledge but the only copper left in the system is the "last mile" isn\’t it? The exchange to the individual user? Everyone who is running more than the most trivial domestic traffic is on fibre optic already I would have thought: and certainly, the various servers and computer farms are.

Internet providers are being urged to spend billions of pounds to replace the copper wires which provide the final web link to homes with high-speed fibre optics.

Ah, yes, that is the bit that it is said the money should be spent upon. So who are the members of the Internet Innovation Alliance? Corning? They make fibre optic glass. AT&T? They carry much of the backbone, but they don\’t have a domestic division any more, do they (they sold it off, didn\’t they?) Etc. etc.

My, my, people who would make lots of money if billions were spent on putting fibre optic into the last mile recommend that other people should spend billions putting  in said fibre optic.

Surprise, eh?


The home secretary will today outline plans to increase protection for children surfing the web, including new jail terms for convicted paedophiles who use social networking websites.

The measures, which mirror systems operating in the US, include a requirement for convicted sex offenders to give their email address to the police. If they use that address to sign up to a website such as MySpace, Bebo or Facebook, they could be imprisoned for up to five years.

Five years for joining Facebook?

Isn\’t it, ermm, sort of necessary to show that they actually did something wrong? You know, like groomed a child or something? Logging on to leave "kthnxbai" on a friend\’s wall gets you five years now?


I find out that I am in fact an iWonk.

As to the software required, aren\’t there Facebook and LinkedIn clones floating around?


I\’d not heard of this.


Here\’s the full description in the New York Times.

But the thing is, it\’s pretty much an American phenomenon….and Rick himself lives in the UK.

So no one knows quite what he thinks about it himself.

So, to go further, does the Great Man himself read any of the UK blogs (so please do spread this story around) and if he does, what does he think about it all?

Finally, as Radley Balko asks, would he be willing to take part himself?


A powerful coalition of children’s charities is urging ministers to make it illegal for companies to trawl Facebook and other social networking websites for information on prospective recruits.


Miss Bimbo

Highly amusing:

The Miss Bimbo game has seen girls aged as young as nine given an online alter ego, which they look after.

They compete against other players in beauty contests to earn money so they can dress their characters in lingerie and take them to nightclubs.

The aim of the game is to become "the coolest, richest and most famous bimbo in the whole world". Players keep the girls at their target weight using diet pills.

They are given missions, including securing plastic surgery to give their "bimbo" bigger breasts and finding a billionaire boyfriend to bankroll her, while keeping a constant check on her hunger, thirst, happiness and other statistics.

Three, Two, One, cue outrage:

But parents\’ groups fear it will fuel teenagers\’ desire for plastic surgery and lead to eating disorders.

OK, so, what to do about it, if anything? Well, you could ban it, but we don\’t do such things in a free society. Parents could block the site on their children\’s computers. And that\’s about it.


This was always going to happen, wasn\’t it?

Hackers have managed to circumvent the BBC\’s anti-piracy systems to gain unrestricted access to the programmes on the corporation\’s iPlayer internet TV service……..

However, the backdoor in the iPlayer allows users to completely bypass those protections and download unprotected versions of any show on the website.

One of the hackers responsible said it took him only 12 minutes to find the loophole and make it work – but that such a simple hack potentially opened up every programme on iPlayer for unlimited downloading.

"The BBC accidentally opened the floodgates and gave the world DRM-free downloads," said one hacker with knowledge of the breach. "If only it were down to something other than poor design, decisions and ineptitude."

As you will know, I\’m resolutely non-technical, but the impression I\’ve had from reading the rest of you is that the original decision, to develop this technology in house rather than to pick up an already developed piece of code was where it all went wrong.



The co-founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, has been accused of offering to edit an entry on the online encyclopaedia site in return for a donation.

Of course, it\’s denied, point blank.

But I really wouldn\’t be surprised if such things went on (whether by Wales or others). A Wikipedia entry can be worth good money, affect a reputation. So there\’s an obvious incentive to pay to get it as good as it can be.

Look at all those Govt departments whose civil servants have been editing entries. That\’s the expenditure of resources to alter entries.

The only possible method of stopping such is reliance upon the good will of those doing the editing. Something which might, err, be a tad hopeful.

Truly egregious entries will be found and changed, but shading and glossing will, I would submit, always go on and simply because there is the incentive to do so at least some people will be paid to do it.

Good Grief!

Could one ofour resident tecchies comment upon this?

All those who are suspected of wrongly downloading pirated material will receive a warning email for the first offence, a temporary suspension from going online for the second and if they commit a third crime they will find their web contract will be terminated, under the new proposals.

Every broadband company will be expected to enforce these rules and firms who fail to adhere to the guidelines could be prosecuted.

Could you tell me whether this is in fact technically feasible? And by that I mean at anything approaching a reasonable cost?

I can\’t see how an ISP can be expected to tell the difference between somoone using BitTorrent legally and somone using it illegally. So it all seems a bit of a non-starter to me, but anyone actually know?

What a Business Idea!

Yes, this sounds very good indeed….unless someone is already doing it.

//For anybody out there looking for a business idea how about a software filter which uses information provided by other internet users to create its block list. i.e. like social bookmarking. Other parents/users who stumbled across a site could rate it or block it and other visitors could rate or block it similarly. Those sites with a high block rating would stay blocked, but those with lower ratings would stay open. Parents could also set the filter strength of the software. This relies on no central censor but rather the distilled morality of thousands of individuals. Talk to me; I am too busy to pursue independently but would be happy to work with somebody on it//

Can we get some technical input from readers?

A collaborative project perhaps?

What the Internet is For

I had an interesting little email yesterday from someone I haven\’t seen or heard of since I was 10, he\’d stumbled across the blog.. How\’s that for technology beating the anomie of modern life, the way in which we no longer commune?

71-73 we lived just north of Naples (father, RN, was posted to the AFSouth base there) and one of the families in the same road was a US military family, the son of which was one Dean Ottoman. Two memories stand out from that time, the way we (like so many young boys did) put playing cards on the shafts of our bicycles (those old American ones, one gear, you braked by pedalling backwards) so that they rubbed against the spokes and made a really "cool" noise as you rode along.

The other was one afternoon when a very flea ridden and shaggy stray dog turned up (some indeterminate mix of collie, lurcher, whatever). He managed to catch all of us by the way he would offer his paw to be put into your hand (obviously, he had been "set free" from somewhere). It was Dean who persuaded his parents that "Ralph" should be taken in and cared for. He became part of the gang, of course.

They do have winters in Italy and given that at that time no one had heating, they could be pretty miserable. There were also such annoyances as school and so on (run by the RAF if memory serves) but the over-riding theme of my memories of that time is of blissful summer afternoons spent roaming the area, climbing the volcano (yes, it started at the bottom of the garden, or perhaps the top is better) variously with Adam, Dean, Stacey, my brother Peter, the gang. Dean remembers better the carolling we did at Christmas, he had my cricket bat for many years after we all left.  In memory at least, some combination of the Famous Five and Swallows and Amazons.

One other memory from then, we often used to go to Cumae for picnics. The area is awash with Greek and Roman ruins and Cumae is a concentration of temples and the like. One of the childhood photos on my parents\’ mantelpiece is of two headless statues, circa 100 AD or so, with my brother and I popping up behind to provide the faces, in the style of those seaside amusements.

So that\’s what the internet is really for, to allow me to wallow in the memories of a golden childhood, long ago.

Dean\’s in Seattle Washington now and has a band. Have a listen here. If you happen to run a bar or gin joint in that area then you should hire them. Both the internet and the power of the blog demand it. They do a pretty good blues chug with "Mojo" (a reworking of perhaps the Muddy Waters and JJ Cale songs of similar names).

What an Idea!

Yes, all in favour of this one.

"The video-sharing Web site YouTube has suspended the account of a prominent Egyptian anti-torture activist who posted videos of what he said was brutal behaviour by some Egyptian policemen, the activist said."

A YouTube competitor should post these videos and then run advertisements saying that unlike YouTube it is not afraid of embarrassing dictators.

Actually, "Embarrassing Dictators" would make a fantastic name for a human rights website that deliberately sought out such videos.

Now, does anyone know how to actually set up a YouTube clone? Is there readily available software? I\’m in to help pay for the bandwidth if anyone does. In fact, if we can get the technical resources together then I\’m pretty certain I could find a sponsor or two (I am assuming that it would not grow to anything like the size where bandwidth would be more than 100\’s of pounds a month).