Thursday, May 17, 2007
  • Ross Fadner, May 17, 2007, 10:32 AM
  • Make no mistake, yesterday's unveiling of Google Universal Search was a massive announcement for the Mountain View, Calif. Web giant. Information Week says the bigness of the press event was underscored by the appearance of so many senior company officials, including Elliot Schrage, vice president of global communications and public affairs; and Craig Silverstein, Google's technology director (and first employee). Google now has integrated each of its search products into its core results, a process which began several months ago, but today received a major upgrade with the addition of video, maps, news and book results.

    Search executives were mixed on the news, but just about everyone agrees this is a monumental change. Greg Sterling, principal of consultancy Sterling Market Intelligence, says the move encourages users to spend more time in the "Google Universe," and will more than likely result in greater usage of underutilized products like Video and Book Search.

    Indeed, with multimedia results on Google.com, the Web giant has turned into something of a search portal--its goal is no longer to send users elsewhere quickly. But the biggest bomb of all, Sterling said, was Mayer's hint that display ads would soon show up in Google search results. There's big ad revenue there. Read the whole story...
  • As long as it doesn't involve them, technology industry executives tend to agree that the U.S. patent system sucks. Across the Web, copyright law is being challenged: the music and movie industries continue to lose the piracy war against peer-to-peer file-sharing programs, Web radio is collectively fighting back against a recent copyright royalty hike, and open source software is preparing for perhaps the biggest patent fight of them all, against Microsoft Corp.

    Microsoft's announcement that free software such as Linux infringes on some 235 of its patents has caused nothing short of an uproar across the tech world.

    Wired, a publication which caters specifically to these folks, says, "A system that was created to protect invention has warped into a heavy drag on innovation in America." In light of that statement, the publication asked its readers to suggest and then rank creative weighs to fix U.S. patent law. The mag sent the most popular ideas to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property, which began working on patent-reform legislation yesterday. The House committee agreed to examine the suggestions. Read the whole story...
  • Online kiddie communities are a feeding ground for big food companies, says new research from the Center for Digital Democracy and American University. Sites like Neopets.com require that users log on frequently to take care of their virtual pet, which includes feeding them ice cream, candy and baked goods. Food marketers like McDonald's and Kellogg's lurk on these sites, the report says, while some, like Wrigley's, have used their brand to create an advergaming portal.

    The CDD/AU report details how low-nutrient foods are marketed to kids on the Web. Apparently, snack food brands are everywhere, from chat rooms to social networks. The authors suggest that the meteoric rise in such marketing contributes to childhood obesity and other health problems by encouraging kids to eat high-sugar, high-fat foods.

    And it's been sent to the Federal Trade Commission for review. The CDD and other watchdog groups want to see sterner rules for marketing food products to kids online. As part of its review of food marketing to children, the FTC has asked some 44 food and beverage brands to reveal they're advertising practices to children. Read the whole story...
  • AOL's global expansion is well underway. The Time Warner Company in the 18 months will launch a retooled Web portal in 14 countries, many of them new. AOL India, Austria and the Netherlands have launched this year, while revamped versions in Germany, France and UK are set to follow. The move is interesting, considering that the Times Warner unit sold its AOL Europe business last year.As part of the retooled site, AOL is adding AOL Instant Messenger to its email service, a la Gmail and Google Talk, and social media services.

    "I want to move as fast as we can," CEO Randy Falco told the Reuters Global Technology, Media and Telecoms Summit in New York.

    Rivals would agree that nimbleness-or rather, versatility-is essential but moving quickly doesn't equal success. AOL maintains that its unveiling a steady stream of new products, and if they are, is anyone paying attention? The news media certainly isn't: short of a big announcement, little has been said about AOL's success with its new content offerings. However, the company's decision to sell ads on its email service was a smart one: the Reuters report says some 52% of its user page views come from email. That's also a bit worrying, especially when you consider that search accounts for a big chunk of page views, too. So how much belongs to the content? Read the whole story...