Happy birthday, Google, and thank you

The Menlo Park house and garage where Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin used to work

The Menlo Park house and garage where Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin used to work

Google is celebrating its 15th birthday today. It was begun as a research project by Larry Page and Sergey Brin while they were research students at Stanford University in January 1996. The domain name was registered on September 15, 1997, and the company incorporated on September 4, 1998, says Wikipedia.

When did I first see Google? In 1999? Not later than that. My first impression? The page looked so bare. Just a search box on a white page and nothing else. It was too minimalistic for me.

I was sold on Yahoo at that time. I loved My Yahoo, the personal home page with magically updated feeds from my favourite news sources — Yahoo News, The New York Times, BBC — all for free. Those were the days. Everything was free.

And what did Google have to offer? Just a search engine. I couldn’t get into my head what the fuss was about, why some people just adored the bare white web page which had nothing on it except a search box.

Sure, I needed to search for information. But that’s not what I did most of the time online. I spent more time reading stories from my favourite websites. And I could read all their latest stories by clicking on the links on My Yahoo. It was not just any other page but could be a personal home page where one could check the news, the weather, the email and even dictionaries. My Yahoo offered more content to spend time on than a nothing-but search site.

And then I discovered I could not do without Google, but My Yahoo? Well, there were alternatives. New news readers came out, new personalized home pages, while Google pulled ahead not only as the indispensable search engine but more. Until recently one could do almost everything on Google, including reading the news on the late, lamented Google Reader.

Now Google has a new search algorithm, codenamed Hummingbird, to better cope with the longer, more complex queries it is getting from web users.

Reuters says:

Google is trying to keep pace with the evolution of Internet usage. As search queries get more complicated, traditional “Boolean” or keyword-based systems begin deteriorating because of the need to match concepts and meanings in addition to words.

“Remember what it was like to search in 1998? You’d sit down and boot up your bulky computer, dial up on your squawky modem, type in some keywords, and get 10 blue links to websites that had those words,” senior vice-president of research Amit Singhal wrote in a blog post.

“The world has changed so much since then: billions of people have come online, the web has grown exponentially, and now you can ask any question on the powerful little device in your pocket.”

Thank you, Google.

Google, “ungoogleable”: From trademarks to words

Google doesn’t like the word, “ungoogleable”. Naturally. You can’t google the world’s total nuclear arsenal, the precise age of the universe, the bottom line of unlisted companies, the actual – not estimated – wealth of billionaires, what the Queen of England had for breakfast yesterday, or locate heaven on Google Map. Even the world’s greatest search engine has its limitations which, of course, Google doesn’t want to be bandied about through expressions like “ungoogleable”.

“Google”, as another word for “search”, entered the third edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, in 2006. But I am not surprised that Google set its foot down on “ogooglebar”, the Swedish word for “ungoogleable”, and prevented it from being officially accepted by the Swedish Language Academy.

English, thank goodness, has no official watchdog minding the language, deciding what is acceptable and what isn’t. Google’s crackdown on “ungoogleable” has given the word new momentum, I think. It is being bandied about freely, far and wide, by every media outlet with newspapers, websites or air time to fill.

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Google+, minus Google Reader

Google Reader is being shut down because people are not sharing enough content on Google+, says a former Google Reader product manager. The Reader was being kept alive to drive content to Google+, but it did not do so, says Brian Shih, speaking from his own experience.

Google’s big hit in social media has been YouTube rather than Google+. In a blog post last week, YouTube announced: “YouTube now has more than a billion unique users every single month.”

Powering this growth, it said, is Gen C (C stands for content) – youngsters born between 1988 and 1993 — who, according to the Google Agency Blog, watch YouTube “on all screens, all the time”.

That brings YouTube neck and neck with Facebook which reports “more than a billion active users as of December 2012.” [Read more...]

Google censoring blogs just as India wanted

Google has started censoring blogs just as India wanted The news comes just a week after Twitter announced a similar move.

Just as Tweeter can block tweets from being seen in countries where they fall foul of local laws, so can Google block access to Blogger blogs in specific countries which want them removed.

Google is introducing a country-specific URL scheme for Blogger blogs. An internet user in India, for example, trying to access a blog with the URL mjakbar.blogspot.com may be redirected to mjakbar.blogspot.in

Google has already made the change in India, Australia and New Zealand. [Read more...]

Facebook’s growing revenue and net income

Facebook's growing revenues

Facebook's growing revenues

Facebook’s revenue and net income have grown phenomenally. It had a net income of $1 billion last year when its revenues totalled $3.7 billion.  And it’s all because of you, Facebook users.  In its registration statement filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission preparatory to its initial public offering, it says: [Read more...]

India cracks down on Google, Facebook and social media

Sonia Gandhi is taking after her mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi. Not only is she the undisputed leader of the Congress party; her government is also trying to curb freedom of expression. [Read more...]

Singapore Pools OK, not the casinos?

How much money does the Singapore government make from the lotteries run by Singapore Pools and its other bookmaking activities?

Today reports that Singapore Pools will give S$164.8 million to charity over the next three years. The money will be put into the Tote Board Social Service Fund for the National Council of Social Service to use.

What the report doesn't say is how much money Singapore Pools collects from the punters every week.

Singapore Pools and the Singapore Turf Club are both owned by the Tote Board,  a statutory board under the Finance Ministry.

That puts the government in the same business as the casinos, from which it is trying to protect Singaporeans.

[Read more...]

Times on the Net: You can’t beat the traffic

The New York Times is the newspaper with the best website and gets around four million daily unique visitors (estimated cookies) – way above the other newspapers I checked on Google Trends and Double Click Ad Planner. (See the charts at the end of this post.)

The Straits Times resembles the American, not the British, newspapers shown in the charts in one way.

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Twitter developing tech to evade censors

Twitter is developing technology aimed at preventing the governments of China and Iran from censoring Tweets, co-founder Evan Williams told an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, reports Wired, quoting the Financial Times.

Williams can be followed on Twitter here.

[Read more...]

Google real-time search with Twitter updates

Announced on the Official Google Blog two days ago, here's Google real-time search in Singapore. Not an awful lot was being reported or said about Singapore when I did the search, as you can see from this video.

News and messages filtered in slowly on the Updates page. But I could see the updates immediately because the screen refreshed every time they came.

It's just like Twitter. In fact, tweets were all I got. But that's fine because the Straits Times and Channel NewsAsia tweet every new story, so you might as well check the headlines on Google or Twitter.

How to do a Google real-time search for Singapore?

I typed "Singapore" in the Google search box.

And there in the middle of the search results page was a scrolldown box with new messages appearing at the top of the box.

If you want to see updates only, look for the "Show options" button with a plus sign above the search results.

[Read more...]