google

Google Purchases Artificial Intelligence Company DeepMind

30
Jan
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In hopes of delving deeper into our own brains, Google went to London and shopped around for an AI intelligence company to join forces with. Doesn't that sound like fun? Actually no, it's petrifying. 

 

DeepMind and Google Moving up in the World

 
Ok, let's just unpack this for a minute before we worry too much about Google getting into our brains. Realistically, beyond confirming the $ 400 million purchase is true, there is little we know about the plan behind it. 
 
The facts are that the company was bought to work on the search side of Google. Known colloquially as the "Knowledge" this side of the Google machine runs everything on the search engines and develops around how we use keywords and larger concepts. The value of the AI company will be to push Google services even further, thus being able to serve us more efficiently in our daily tasks with which we use the internet. 
 
Google have kept rather quiet about the deal but the co-founder of DeepMind, Demis Hassabis said they were very much looking forward to working with Google as it would enable them to "harness the power of machine learning tools to tackle some of society's toughest problems." I am not sure what he considers the toughest problems faced by society but it seems promising for now. 
 

What does an AI company do?

 
Contrary to popular belief, this AI company will not be used to support Google in its invasion of our privacy a step further. Indeed, many could be concerned considering Google's last year has been one of NSA scandal and more recently, defending its Android Facebook app from needing to read people's text messages. The last thing we need are more companies with shady operations to join the force. 
 
Up until now, DeepMind have been creating games with an enhanced AI, therefore making the gaming experience closer to reality than ever before. The are effectively making the internet a more human like place. 
 

Link with Google

 
In reality, DeepMind "Combines the best techniques from machine learning and systems neuroscience to build powerful general-purpose learning algorithms." Of what I have gathered from this technical definition is that it will enable Google search tools to respond to our needs in a closer way to how a human would. Instead of just searching through the keywords we have typed in the box, it will expand beyond and search for connections in more innovative ways. Thus making the search more efficient in the first place. 
 

Robots but not robots?

 
Although they claim this merge will have nothing to do with robots, it is difficult to see how this is not what we envisioned robots to become. 
 
Put it this way, a robot in its stereotypical form is perhaps a metal body with a digital brain that will be able to perform actions that serve us according to what we ask it to do and shape their actions according to our behaviour and needs. Now, if you take the physical aspect of said robot away, you are left with what Google and DeepMind are developing for search. Robot are meant to replicate humans. 
 
If they can pull this off and create something that will be able to understand what we are looking for without us even knowing what it is, it will be the turning point of search and the internet as a whole (bold statement alert).
 
It is true that for now, one cannot always write a full question into Google and expect a coherent answer. Watch this space as we could be witnessing our own future behaviour being created. 

Overall Growth in App Revenue in Asia Spurred by Google Play

24
Jan
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It turns out the hot ticket for app developers around the world is Asia. According to latest figures, the continent has seen the largest growth in app purchase and development in recent times. 

 

Asia's enduring love of smartphones

 
At this point in time, we are all quite aware of Asia's growing appetite of smartphones. From China's obsession with personal computer sized "phablets" to the whole region's embrace of the now ubiquitous iPhone. 
 
When it comes to apps though, it has been difficult for many companies to cash up on their inventions. Not only do many apps come out for free, but advertising through them is actually one of the internet's hardest puzzles. 
 
According to a new report by Distimo, revenues in Asia from apps grew by 162%, thus making it plenty higher than any other region of the world. This is partly explained by a general high growth in smartphone purchases in Asia compared to Europe where half of us are still jamming with a Nokia 3310. Ok, perhaps that is an exaggeration but the truth is not far off. 
 

The Google and the Asia

 
It turns out that Google Play revenue has grown far more than Apple's App store which has seen growth by a mere 94% (please note the irony). The 400% growth of Google Play has placed Asia as its number one market, unlike the app store that still holds North America as its biggest market. 
 
It can be said that Asia is substantially more excited about Android products than Apple ones. In fact, the numbers for Google Play do not include China which has it's own platform for selling Android apps called Wandoujia. This means that not only are Google's figures skewed without results from China, but that they are therefore much much larger than the official ones. 
 
Tim Cook better have a few tricks up his sleeve if he is hoping to come up against Google in this part of the world. It is difficult to assess exactly why Asia prefers Google products to Apple ones. If anyone has a theory please let me know. 
 
For now though Google can enjoy its outstanding success in Asia. It will be interesting to see if the region reacts to Google Glass with the same gusto. 

Google Has New Logo and Updated Navigation Bar

20
Sep
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REVAMP ALERT. Apparently it's definitely time to bring out the new collection. Yahoo and Google have both been launching brand new logos lately. 

 
When it comes to Yahoo, don't bother. They lost their edge and nothing will ever compare to the advertising genius of the YAHOOOOHOOO! chant from the cowboy. 
 
Google, on the other hand we can take a little more seriously as we know they have proven their worth over the years with the many delights of Google Doodles. Let's not lie to ourselves, they truly are the best way to lighten up an otherwise gloomy Monday morning. 
 

What's new with Google?

 
Two major changes have been announced by the company. First of all we have been treated to a brand new groundbreaking logo. Well actually it's basically the same thing but the letters are not in 3D anymore. Well they are not shadowed, you know, they look like they've been drawn onto our screens instead of being sculpted. As you can tell from my descriptive talents I have no training in design. 
 
It has been pointed out that this recent trend on 2D extends beyond Google. If you look at the new OS over at Apple you will notice that the famous apps icons that used to look like they were floating in space are now much more firmly grounded in the phone and don't have the shadowing effect. Perhaps this is the announcement of a new trend in web design. 
 

Changes to the Navigation Bar

 
Before, the different services of the Google site were in a toolbar at the top where you could hop to images or news for example. Well the big change here is that they are now regrouped into an app grid. It is worth noting that more of the static web now offers an increasingly "mobile" feel to their layout. Icons and grid systems are quickly replacing the more conventional setup. 
 

Coming soon to a computer near you

 
Google execs have announced that these changes will be rolled out to most of their sites in the coming weeks. Fear not though my friends, these updates will not mess up your online habits in the way a Facebook update does… *shudders in fear*
 

Nothing to write home about

 
Critics around the world have not been taken away by this new design and functional change. Perhaps it is not meant to be taken that way and Google is just making small improvements for our benefit while they pool all their resources into making a new fabulous product for us to use in the coming months 

Google China Boss Quits

15
Jul
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This really is a bad time for Google in China. After it was discovered that their search engine was ranked fifth in the country, it now also transpires that the big China boss (routed through Hong kong…) is leaving after 6 years at the helm. 

 

Losing ground?

 
Why is he leaving is what I would like to know. Also, does 6 years seem like a little or a long time to be heading a company like this in China?
 
John Liu has been the man in charge and has decided that 6 years was long enough. He is expected to pursue other opportunities but it is unclear if he will stay within the Google family and indeed in China.
 
His reign has been considered controversial by many, in his defense, having to deal with China not wanting them there can't have been easy any day. 
 

Google future in China

 
Since the fallout between China and Google in January 2010 because of a dispute involving certain unmentionables, the status of the Google search engine has been waning. 
 
Indeed, since 2010, the search engine is rerouted through Hong Kong servers making it harder to use and subject to periodical blocking from the good folks on the mainland. 
 
Beyond that, the competition for search engines in China is MASSIVE with many companies offering very good service and are growing in influence daily. 
 

New kid on the block

 
According to the press, it will be Scott Beaumont's turn to run the show over here in China as Mr Liu takes a well deserved break. 
 
Some are skeptical that someone with limited knowledge on China will become the new head of the company in what is a less than simple market for Google. 

Google Losing its Small Grip on Chinese Search Engine Market

7
Jul
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Although the world's most famous tech firm is calling all the shots when it comes to mobile operating system Android, its search engine status is not faring as well in China. 

 

Google in decline?

 
In a very circle-of-life kind of way, Google is losing ground to its competitors when it comes to its place as search engine in Greater China.
 
The truth is that compared to other players on the Chinese market, Google has never been top dog. Despite what Google execs will try to convince you of, Google does not run the ENTIRE world. 
 
When it comes to China, there is no longer an overwhelming major player. Although Baidu is the obvious number one when it comes to percentage of the market as well as actual number of search queries managed daily, it is seriously losing it's grip on a market with a growing number of contenders. 
 
Baidu had been keeping a steady 70% corner of China's search engine race but has recently dropped below for the first time. 

 

Who's winning the race? 

 
As of late, Qihoo is gaining a growing share of China's online presence since it launched its search engine last August called so.com and now claims a whopping 15% share placing it second after Baidu
 
Qihoo CEO has shown the company's willingness to fetch between 15% and 20% of the market as that would ensure Baidu fall from grace. Well, job done boys. 
 
Now that that mark has been reached, Qihoo will not stop its climb and hopes to reach 20% by the end of this year. 
 

Google's obvious struggles

 
Any learned member of the Chinese tech community will know that the main obstacle to Google's presence in China is the fact that its not very welcome in the country in the first place. Indeed, it becomes quite difficult to maintain such presence when the people in charge are actively trying to kick you out. 
 

What of Baidu's failings?

 
If Google has a relatively good reason to not be a game player in China, why, then is Baidu losing traction to search engines such as so.com and Tencent's soso.com? 
 
Not all is lost yet, and despite having seen its shares fall in the recent times, Baidu and Qihoo and still going head to head to figure out who is the best engine to run the Chinese internet. 

Google's Purchase of Waze Illegal?

26
Jun
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Recently, this blog posted about Google's decision to buy the navigation firm Waze for $1.3 billion.  The mammoth multicolored tech firm is hoping to expand its mapping and localization services in the future. 
 

The feds are after them. 

 
As it turns out Google may be actually be getting too big to function legally. According to the US laws of equal opportunity of something, Google cannot be seen buying up Waze in order to take over the whole mapping market. 
 
The US Federal Trade Commission wants to make sure there is space for other companies even if this deal goes through. 
 
According to the powers that be, there is little chance that this will actually affect the deal as it does not seem to significantly damage competitive companies such as tom-tom and Bing Maps (I'm not even going to mention Apple's mapping service because ever our old Michelin road atlas damages them…)
 

Late news

 
Why did we not hear about this earlier you say? Simply because Google chose not declare its acquisition of this company for the authorities. Indeed, any firm that makes less that $70 million annually is not subject to scrutiny by the regulators of capitalism in DC. 
 
Therefore, no review was undertaken and Google thought it would be allowed to sail through with its new purchase. 
 
However, the authorities could still pull a fast one and there is a chance they will push Google to not integrate Waze into their own services. 
 

Google's plan with Waze?

 
None of us are sure what the game plan is for these two at the moment but many speculate Google bought them in the first place to get rid of a potential competitor. Obviously, right now the firm is far too small to take on the doodling giant but who knows what time could have brought. 
 
No other information has been leaked for now so we will have to sit tight and see what Google decide to make of their brand new toy. 

New Study Shows Top Position on Google Gets 33% of Traffic

24
Jun
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We all know the age old saying: If it's not on the first page of Google then it doesn't exist. Although this may be a little dramatic, the idea that most of what we search for on Google rarely goes beyond the first few pages is quite an obvious one. 

 

What's the verdict?

 
Various studies have been made which have produced differing results. This often has to do with how the data has been collected and interpreted. 
 
The online company Chitika has conducted a study which claimed that a whopping 33% of SERP traffic heads straight to the first result of the first page on Google. 18% goes to the second ranking and after that the numbers just get smaller and smaller. 
 
Now, this is for organic searches - sponsored links are not included here which puts all the emphasis on SEO. Paid advertisement is obviously valuable to your online business but a strong concentration on SEO will reap more results in the long run. 
 

An unchanged trend

 
According to Chitika who conducted a close study in 2010 and found very similar results have come to the conclusion that being on the top of Google's first page is the only place to be. This has probably only become more crucial in the last few years as Google grows in size and influence. 
 

Differing points of study?

 
Now, although there is no doubt that being at the top of Google is the best place to be on the internet, different studies have produced different results, thus making it harder to understand what's going on. 
 
Another study by Slingshot in 2011 showed that 18.2% of clicks go to the top position. We can easily say that this is still a significant proportion of all searches but it does stand at quite a distance from Chitika's figure. 
 
After an examination of both studies, we can figure out that the Chitika results are more wide reaching in their examination and may therefore be too vague to help users understand how to get to the top. 
 
Slingshot's results focus more on specific terms and correlated it to Google's search volume for said terms. 
 

Who to believe? 

 
All in all, it seems that stats such as these need to be understood before they can be used in any way as they are never as straight forward as they originally seem. 
 
The point being is that for most of us getting as close as possible to the top naturally is the best goal. Plus, focusing on SEO will always pay off so sort out your keywords! 

The Billion Dollar Purchase of Navigation App Waze by Google

17
Jun
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The billionaires at Google went on a bit of a shopping spree recently and have bought the very successful makers of the app Waze for an estimated $1.3 billion. 

 

More expansion for the largest tech company

 

Like any good hegemon, Google has decided to not stop buying despite being one of the most influential companies in the world today. 

 

The techies are now expanding their mapping and localization segment of the market with their newest purchase. Here's hoping the bid is successful as the cool $1.3 billion shaped hole in the Google Wallet could be worrying. 

 

What is Waze?

 

Unlike other billion dollar purchases from recent history (Tumblr anyone?) this one was not hugely reported on apart from in specialist circles. Perhaps something to do with Tumblr being a major game-changer in social media and online trends and Waze basically tells you where there traffic jams are. 

 

That may be a little harsh; Waze is an invaluable tool for all those who commute by road. Joining this to the geniuses at Google Maps, it could really be a new era in technology helping with our daily problems.

 

Waze claims to have almost 50 million users and uses a crowdsourcing method to amalgamate traffic information. Based in Israel, they offer information for most of the world's road thanks in part to satellite information. 

 

Facebook and Apple losing out

 

It turns out all three companies were contenders when it came to buying the Waze app makers. Facebook was hoping to further develop their Home offering through the purchase of Waze but it all fell through when Waze headquarters refused to move to the US which was enough to break the deal. Facebook may kick themselves in the shins later for that decision. 

 

Apple is still trying to scrape back after the disastrous launch of its own mapping service for iOS6. The damage done by that is definitely still lingering in the air as the company went from a flawless, untouchable tech company to one that makes blunders large enough for it to reverberate all over the world. Sadly though, this time again Google won over Apple. 

New Baidu Maps Includes Friend Tracking

30
May
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In its latest version of the now ubiquitous mapping app, Baidu now offers the chance to know exactly where our friends are all the time. Put your hand up if you think this is a bit stalky.

 
Google has an option called Google Latitude which effectively turns your friends (and lover) into a small pin on the interactive map meaning you don't even have to ask them where they are (it's also good for calling people out on their lying and cheating habits). 
 

Incorporating Skype?

 
The one thing we clearly need more of is opportunities to chat online. Indeed, Baidu picked up on that and have added a chat option to the map app. What this means is that as you track where your friend is you can talk to them at the same time. 
 
My only true issue with having a plethora of chat platforms is that one can never remember when someone wrote something important and it needs to be checked. Where did you write down your address? Skype, Facebook, WeChat, and now Baidu maps as well? Too much. 
 

Privacy issues

 
Now, this tracking system can only function if all parties consent to it. It can include more than two people and only happen so long as they are signed into their Baidu account. 
 
This is somewhat reassuring if you suddenly realize you are maybe sharing too much of your personal info online. However, once you agree to share your localization with a friend, there is little justification for stopping it abruptly. 
 
The true issue for many of us is that lying about how late we're actually going to be will become so much harder. Indeed, the phrase "I will be there in 5 minutes" will not work out as well if the other one can see that you're still 6 subways stops and an interchange away. 
 

Baidu maps in China 

 
Anyone who knows China a little will know full well that it is the most popular search engine in the country and is sort of the face of Chinese internet. However, its mapping service is only second in the country, it must concede 1st place to Autonavi, a company owned in part by tech goliath Alibaba and sworn enemy of Baidu
 
However, Baidu maps has 80 millions users and if this new feature proves a success could amass quite a few more shortly. 

Google More Successful than Baidu - Why?

2
May
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Google has been going from strength to strength over the last decade while Baidu may have already reached its peak. These two companies are at the same place in their respective countries but not heading in the same directions. 

 

Baidu's place in China 

 
When it comes to search, Baidu is at the helm in China. Indeed, the engine takes on 80% of search queries on the internet here and its closest rivals are still light years away when it comes to numbers. 
 
The issue is not so much with the engine but the platforms it uses. Baidu is still mainly used on static computers which have seen sales tumble as tablets and smartphones take up the market. 
 
Google is not overly present in China as a search engine which may explain in part why Baidu's part of the market is as big as it is. Now, the greater issue is for the Chinese search engine to find new streams of revenue. 
 

Google's success

 
Why is Google so successful? Timing and smart decisions seems to be the clincher when it comes to this mega-company.
 
Both companies make the vast majority of their revenue through advertisement online. However, Google invested heavily in mobile and other services and is now seeing the rewards of that risk. 
 
Android was purchased in 2005, long before the iPhone hit our shelves and is now the most widely used mobile operating system in the world. 
 
Youtube was bought in 2006 and is now a staple of the global internet and has been promoted to the rank of verb. 
 

How to stay afloat

 
The problem for Baidu is that it exists in one of the most ferocious and ever evolving environments. It has been noted that the company has dropped value in its shares over the last year despite it being the biggest search engine in the country with the most internet users. 
 
The future will be difficult for Baidu as it will seriously need to develop into a more multi-function platform in the way that Google has managed. 
 
The rise of Baidu maps could be a step in the right direction for a business too heavily reliant on old-school personal computers.