European Parliament votes to split Google

Posted in News on 27 November 2014

A vote taken today, Thursday, at the European Parliament has returned in favour of splitting Google’s search operation from its commercial business.

The motion put forward to the European Parliament proposed creating a more level playing field for internet search – an area in which Google unmistakeably dominates with 90pc of the market in Europe.

One remedy suggested for the long-running anti-trust saga is to split Google’s search business from its commercial services. Votes have been cast in Strasbourg and the resolution passed with 384 MEPs in favour and 174 against.

While the opinion of the MEPs is clear, the vote is largely ceremonial as the European Parliament has no authority to exact the break-up of the US tech company. However, it is a clear indication of the European legislators’ attitude to Google.

The draft motion by Germany’s Andreas Schwab called for an “unbundling [of] search engines from other commercial services should be considered as a potential solution to Google’s dominance,” and was backed by the European Parliament’s two main political blocs, the European People’s Party and the Socialists.

In a separate move on Wednesday, the European Union’s data officials called for the ‘right to be forgotten’ from search engine results such as Google’s to be extended, while the European Commissioner for the Digital Economy Günther Oettinger is also considering an IP tax that has been labelled ‘anti-Google’.


Tumblr and Pinterest now fastest-growing social platforms

Posted in News on 27 November 2014

Earlier this year, Instagram was leading the pack as the fastest-growing social platform. Now, it's Tumblr and Pinterest, which have edged out the picture-sharing app for greatest increase in active users.

Tumblr's active users grew by 120% in the last six months, according to new stats released by the Global Web Index first spotted by TechCrunch on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Facebook's active users grew by just 2%.

Pinterest comes in behind Tumblr with a 111% growth in active users, who are users that say they've actually used the site with some regularity. Earlier this year when GWI released numbers, Instagram was on top but has dropped to third place. Of the top eight, in fact, Facebook is in last place, behind LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Google+.

Still, these numbers only refer to growth. While it's growing fast, Tumblr still comes in at eighth place for active users overall. Facebook maintains a considerable lead when it comes to popularity, but the social network seems like it could be reaching its peak concentration for users. Tumblr's audience also skews young, while Facebook's — more than any other social platform — skews old, according to the data.


For mobile apps, Snapchat saw the most growth, with a 56% uptick in six months. Facebook Messenger came in second, though this isn't too surprising because Facebook essentially forced many of its users to download the companion app. Instagram came in third for app usage, followed by Line, Pinterest, Kakao Talk and Vine.

The GWI report's author notes that Facebook has some "major challenges" to face as it moves forward. Many people are growing bored with the platform, the report notes, and 50% of U.S. and UK members are using it far less frequently than they used to. For now, Facebook's king status seems safe, but the market of social media is ever-saturating.


Mozilla Previews New Firefox Interface With One-Click Searches

Posted in News on 27 November 2014

Mozilla gave users a glimpse of its new search interface for Firefox this week, revealing one-click searches.

The revamped Firefox will feature an improved, more organized search suggestion design with an array of buttons below to offer users alternative search suggestions. The buttons permit users to find the term they are searching for more easily on their site of choice.

“How often have you done a web search, already knowing that you would click the first result that looked like a Wikipedia page?” writes Mozilla’s Philipp Sackl. “Quite often? Then Firefox is about to make your life easier. With the new one click searches, you can instantly find what you are looking for across the Web.

“We are shipping Firefox with a set of pre-installed search engines that are tailored to your language. You can easily show and hide them in your search preferences.”

Mozilla has also made the new Firefox interface customizable to better fits its users’ needs.

Users can add additional search engines to their one-click searches be it a dictionary site, a parenting site or a site for Web developers.

To add a new site, simply click on the magnifying glass in the search field while on the site of choice and select the site to add.

There are, it seems, a lot of changes going on at Mozilla of late.

Just last week Mozilla announced Yahoo would become the default search engine on Firefox in the U.S. beginning next month, ending Google’s decade-long partnership with the firm.

The companies have struck a five-year partnership in which a new Yahoo Search experience will be introduced to Firefox users in the U.S. It will feature a modern new interface and will also support Do Not Track (DNT).

Although Yahoo will be the default search engine, Firefox will continue to offer built-in as alternate search options including Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, eBay, Amazon, Twitter and Wikipedia.


EU Wants Right to Be Forgotten Law to Extend to Google’s U.S. Search

Posted in News on 27 November 2014

The European Union is calling on Google to apply the ‘right to be forgotten,’ law to all Google search results, not just those in Europe.

EU privacy watchdogs have drafted new rules for Google to follow and have chastised the search giant for contacting the media about article links it has removed — an action that actually puts the focus squarely on the very people who were seeking to restore their privacy.

This means the search engine firm will now have to remove the links from in the U.S. as well.

“All the extensions are included, including the .com,” said Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, head of the 28 EU privacy watchdog groups. “There is no legal basis for routine transmissions from Google, or any other search engines, to editors. It may, in some cases be necessary, but not as a routine and not as an obligation, as Google said.”

Although Google has argued that the ruling of the European Union Court of Justice did not encompass U.S. search, the Commission disagrees.

The agency said although currently is used by only five percent of Europeans, that could change if they know they can access info which has been delisted from Google’s European search.

The European Union Court of Justice sided with privacy advocates in May, saying individuals have the ‘right to be forgotten,’ ordering search engines to either edit or erase online search results if they are found to violate a person’s privacy.

Google received 12,000 requests in the first 24 hours the form was online. Often, the tech firm was receiving as many as 20 requests per minute.


Black Friday: What is it and why is it creeping in on Ireland?

Posted in News on 27 November 2014

DO YOU LIKE shopping? Love a bargain? Well, then you’ll love the idea of Black Friday.

Black Friday is the Friday following Thanksgiving Day – which is today –  in the US and is generally regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.


Shops go mad with crazy discounts, with even more crazy shoppers queuing outside stores hours before they open to make sure they get the best deals.

Think Stephen’s Day sales and probably multiply that by ten, and you have it.


Boots in Ireland are already advertising their “Early Black Friday Offers” and they are saying these offers will be available over the entire “Black Friday Weekend”. So, now it’s a weekend.

Boots is not the only retailer to do it, though.  The Fitzwilliam Institute Group announced that it is offering Black Friday deals this week, with the campaign ending on Sunday.

“Black Friday doesn’t have to be about clothes, shoes or gadgets. This year we have a Black Friday offer for those who want to give themselves the gift of education,” said Noel Murphy, managing director of the Fitzwilliam Institute Group.


Even Twitter’s CFO Has Trouble Using Twitter

Posted in News on 26 November 2014

If you're not especially technically savvy, Twitter can be one of the more difficult and confusing social media platforms to use. The system is rather elaborate, with each user having multiple streams making up a personal timeline as well as separate feeds for direct messages, notifications and "activity." There's also the problem of Twitter-specific lingo, sometimes confusing shorthand invented to cope with the limited character length of Twitter messages. Just this month, the company moved the space for composing tweets (the one that reads "What's happening?") to the top of users' timelines, a more natural position that's easier to locate.

Still, operating Twitter is brain surgery, so it should come as a surprise when people who work for Twitter display a lack of understanding for how to use their own product. That's exactly what happened yesterday when the company's chief financial officer, Anthony Noto, tweeted publicly what appeared to be intended for a direct message:

“I think we should buy them. He is on your schedule for Dec 15 or 16 – we will need to sell him. I have a plan”, is the message he posted on Twitter.

Noto is new to Twitter, having just joined the company in July, and he's definitely not the first person to confuse the tweet and direct message options. This mistake is basically harmless, although Business Insider notes that because Twitter is a public company, any talk of acquisitions can potentially move a company stock up or down.

What the errant tweet really provides is a laugh, as quotes taken out of context that don't make any sense are often hilarious, and a lesson in taking the time to make sure that you're using Twitter correctly.


Bing and Yahoo! want to be Apple's search engine when Google contract runs out

Posted in News on 26 November 2014

Google's deal to be the default search provider on Apple devices is set to expire next year with both Microsoft's Bing and Yahoo! keen to take over.

That's according to The Information reports that claim Microsoft and Yahoo! are separately competing to take over from Google, who have held the position since the launch of the iPhone in 2007.

Should Yahoo! become the chosen one it would represent another major coup for the computer software company after they recently partnered with Mozilla to become the Firebox browser's default search engine in the US for the next five years. This marked the end of Mozilla's decade-long collaboration with Google and was likely a consequence of the Internet-related services provider creating its own Chrome browser in 2011.

"Our agreement came up for renewal this year, and we took this as an opportunity to review our competitive strategy and explore our options," said Mozilla’s CEO Chris Beard upon the announcement.

“In the end, each of the partnership options available to us had strong, improved economic terms reflecting the significant value that Firefox brings to the ecosystem. But one strategy stood out from the rest.”

Earlier this year it was reported that Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer was planning a viable mobile search engine and monetisation platform to convince Apple to make Yahoo! the default search engine on its Safari browser.

Both Yahoo! and Bing are currently included in Safari as alternate search options.


Facebook Makes It Easier To Unfollow People & Pages In News Feed

Posted in News on 25 November 2014

As promised by CEO Mark Zuckerberg during the townhall Q&A yesterday, Facebook is giving users more control over what they see on the social network.

The new News Feed controls will make it easier for people to unfollow people and pages and give clearer messaging to people who choose to hide a post.

Now users who click to hide a post will be able to indicate that they want to see less from the page or person, or go the more extreme unfollow route, “if you don’t want to see any of their stories in your News Feed,” Facebook product manager Greg Marra wrote in a blog post. “You can always visit News Feed settings to see everything you’ve unfollowed and have the option to re-follow them.”

The News Feed settings, which are accessible through the More button on the mobile app, have also been reworked to give users better tools adjust the dials. Marra explained:

News Feed settings will now show a list of the top people, Pages and Groups that you’ve seen in your News Feed over the past week. You can choose to sort by people, Pages or Groups posts, or see an overall summary. Unfollow any friend, Page or Group if you don’t want to see their stories in your News Feed. You can also see who you’ve unfollowed in the past and can choose to re-follow them at anytime.

Whether these changes will prove to be good news for marketers remains to be seen. Many will likely bristle at the idea of giving people easier ways to unfollow pages. But then if users are annoyed enough by a business’ updates to hide or unfollow a post, they are probably not the best prospects anyway.

And as Zuckerberg noted yesterday, Facebook is always going to favor the user experience over making sure businesses reach their customers.

“And in every decision that we make, we optimize for the first, for making it so that the people who we serve, who use Facebook, and who are reading News Feed get the very best experience that they can,” he said. “And that means that if a business is sharing content that’s going to be useful for them, then we’ll show that. But that means if the business is sharing content that isn’t going to be useful for them, we may not show that.”

Facebook said the new News Feed settings will be available starting today on desktop and mobile. The new feedback options will be available today on desktop, and coming to mobile in the coming weeks.


Storyful to create 30 jobs in new R&D centre

Posted in News on 25 November 2014

Investment will help the social media news agency, founded by former RTE reporter Mark Little, exploit new opportunities.

Social media news agency Storyful is to create 30 jobs at a new R&D centre in its Dublin headquarters.

The investment will “bolster the company’s Dublin base as it enhances its technology infrastructure, allowing it to exploit new opportunities and target new markets” the company said today.

Commenting on the development Storyful chief executive officer Mark Little said: “We have ambitious plans for growth and innovation across platforms, and these new roles are critical to achieving our vision over the coming years. Dublin is our home, and we are excited at what’s to come.”

Recruitment for the technology roles will begin immediately and the Dublin office will acquire a dedicated R&D structure and an opportunity to implement a real step up in terms of the company’s core technology platform.

Storyful acquires video content it considers newsworthy and sells licenses for their use to organisations such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and ABC.

Founded by former RTE reporter Mark Little in 2010, Storyful was acquired by News Corp, the global diversified media and information services company led by Rupert Murdoch in December 2013, with a commitment to retain and grow Storyful’s Dublin headquarters.


European Parliament Wants Google to Split Search from Rest of Firm

Posted in News on 25 November 2014

Google’s search engine operations could soon be a separate entity from the rest of the company if the European Parliament has its way.

According to a report from Reuters, European politicians are preparing a non-binding resolution that suggests splitting Google’s search engine operations in Europe from the rest of the company to end its monopoly of the market.

Although the draft motion seen by Reuters does not specifically mention Google or any other search engine, it stands to reason the document is aimed at the American company, which currently enjoys an estimated 90 percent of the search market in Europe.

The motion “calls on the Commission to consider proposals with the aim of unbundling search engines from other commercial services as one potential long-term solution” to give other companies a chance.

Although parliament cannot enforce its resolution, it will, undoubtedly, put pressure on the European Commission to come down hard on Google.

Newly-appointed European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said earlier this month that she is mulling over how to handle a four-year-long investigation into Google for using its monopoly of the market to give its own products and services prominence over that of its competitors.

Vestager, who took over from Joaquin Almunia at the beginning of the month, said she planned to examine the opinions of parties involved in the case and check on the latest developments in the sector before taking any action.

She added that the investigation would only be about competition issues despite pressure from critics that it should be expanded to include data privacy and media pluralism.

If European Union regulators are not satisfied with Google’s next round of concessions, the company could be slapped with a $5-billion fine.


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