Google has a lot of mud thrown at it, and while a lot of it slides off, there is a good proportion that sticks. There are a variety of accusations levelled at the search giant -- evil, self-serving, monopolistic, nosey, invasive, overbearing, corporate, et cetera, et cetera -- but could it be that the power the company wields is actually a good thing? Could Google use the sway it holds over website owners to make the web a better place? But before we start praising Google, there's no harm in sticking the boot in first, eh?
For many people, Google is a bully. In the constant search for page views, ranking in Google matters -- it matters a lot. My colleague Joe Wilcox argues that writers should write for themselves and their readers rather than Google -- something I would strongly advocate -- but until this notion gathers momentum, there are still countless bloggers panicking themselves silly about what impact the latest search algorithm changes will have on their position in search results. It can be a constant game of catch-up, requiring endless changes to optimize content for maximum visibility -- all too often at the expense of readability and reader experience.
It has often been said that making use of any social network is an exercise in vanity or narcissism. The likes of Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other similar tools give anyone a platform to voice their views, concerns, complaints and anything else they feel inclined to get off their chest. But what matters about each of these social networks -- for the vane narcissist, at least -- is the number of people who are actually reading the words that are published. Unburdening online can be a wonderfully cathartic experience, but all the better if it is read by tens of thousands of people rather than just hundreds.
Each network gives you its own way to keep track of your potential audience. On Facebook, it's easy to keep track of the number of friends you have, while on Twitter it's the number of followers that's important -- as well, of course, as the coveted blue verified badge. Similarly on LinkedIn, it is easy to see how many people you’re connected to, and in the case of Google+ you can check how many people have circled you. But then there is the matter of how these figures translate into actual views.
One of the great things about social networks is that it is possible to connect with people without the need to share email addresses. This means that you can remain "friends" with someone on Facebook, but not get to the point where you're handing out your email address and worrying about checking your inbox. The same is true of LinkedIn, but the difference with this "professional network" is that you're probably connecting with a larger number of people you would rather didn’t have your personal contact details. This comforting level of security was wiped out by Sell Hack.
This free browser extension -- available for Firefox, Chrome and Safari -- could be used to expose the email address associated with any LinkedIn account, regardless of whether you are connected to the person you are, essentially, spying on. Perhaps understandably, this caused a degree of upset and resulted in LinkedIn sending a cease and desist notice to the extension's developers. Sell Hack adds a "Hack In" button to social network pages which, when clicked, reveals the email address used by the account owner to create their page.
Kim Dotcom -- the man behind the infamous MegaUpload, and then Mega -- has been out of the spotlight for a little while, but now he's back with renewed strength. This time around he's not trying to launch a new service, but a new branch of his career. Not content with bringing free cloud storage to the masses, Dotcom is now venturing into politics, launching the Internet Party in New Zealand. He finds himself in an interesting position as he is currently fighting extradition to the US where he faces charges of infringing copyright.
As the name suggests, the Internet Party is concerned primarily with what's happening online. The party has a fairly simple mission statement. "The Internet Party was founded on the spirit of the Internet, to get an open, free, fair, connected and innovative society". It is described as "a party that will give you faster, cheaper Internet, create high-tech jobs, protect your privacy, and safeguard our independence".
Social media is frequently the first victim of internet censorship when nations begin attempting to lock down citizens. We have seen these efforts fail time and again. Turkey has been no exception during the past week -- Twitter was blocked, and users flocked to change DNS settings to Google, though that has now also been locked out.
Twitter, for its part, has filed legal action within the country, in an effort to have the blockade lifted and give a voice back to its users, including dissenters of the current government. Now the company details its current efforts in a blog post from Vijaya Gadde, general counsel for the social network.
It has been a day of purchases today. If Intel purchasing wearable tech outfit Basis was not enough, everyone's favorite social network (or something like that), Facebook has splashed the cash on virtual reality startup Oculus VR. In a deal worth $2 billion, Mark Zuckerberg's company will hand over $400 million in greenbacks, in addition to 23.1 million Facebook shares. The purchase comes just weeks after Facebook bought messaging service Whatsapp for $19 billion.
Oculus VR is most readily associated with gaming, but Zuckerberg is more interested in the communication potential. Millions of people use Facebook to keep in touch with friends, family, celebrities and companies, but the firm wants to take things further. "We have a lot more to do on mobile, but at this point we feel we're in a position where we can start focusing on what platforms will come next to enable even more useful, entertaining and personal experiences", says Zuckerberg in a statement on Facebook.
In the philanthropic world, we often use the word "impact" to describe the amount of influence a program is having on a community, and how those efforts have contributed to change. The term is used in a number of ways, but generally it illustrates the broader or longer-term results of a nonprofits action -- small or large -- and how it has contributed to a solution.
Ingenuity in technology is helping nonprofits show that impact and their solutions with more quantifiable data they can share with their constituents and their communities as a whole. Ten years ago, critics dismissed impact measurement as too difficult, misleading or simply not important. Today, Charitynavigator.org estimates 75 percent of charities measure some or all of their work, and nearly three-quarters have invested more in measuring results over the last five years. A transformation in the tools that enable nonprofits to measure the impact of what they do has raised the performance bar significantly.
The NSA story isn't new. Scratch that. It's not really a story; it's a saga. Just when it seems safe to feel that there can't possibly be any more revelations to knock us sideways... oops... there's another little surprise for you! Just a week ago, I argued that Google's encryption of Chinese web searches amounts to little more than a PR exercise, designed to try to get the disgruntled user back on its side. This is not something that is related to the NSA revelations. When we found out that the likes of Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Yahoo (to name but a few) had been handing data over to the US government, all of these companies were falling over themselves to appear to be doing everything they could legally do to let their customers know what had been happening with their data.
Of course, it's not just the UK that has this problem, although that’s certainly where the attention has been focused -- the UK had (or possibly has) its own Optic Nerve program which was used to spy on webcam chats. The story we have heard time and time again is that these companies did not know what was going on. That the government had been collecting data without their knowledge. There were concessions that in some cases, FISA requests had been received but there were limitations on what could be publically revealed. Each company tried to outdo the others by appearing to reveal as much data as it could as quickly as humanly possible.
We are spied upon. Someone, somewhere, knows what you have been doing online. It might be your snooping friend taking a look at your browsing history, or it might be that weird looking guy on the next table in the coffee shop watching your every click. It might be advertisers using cookies, or it could be your own government. This is now just about expected; it is part and parcel of using the internet. In some parts of the world, access to the internet is not only monitored, but also restricted and controlled. But it didn’t used to be like this, and it needn't stay like this.
In some regions the idea of mass spying is a relatively recent concept. The activities of the NSA, GCHQ and other government organizations are something only the most recent generation of internet users is "used" to -- for the rest us, it is at best an unpleasant sea change, and at worst just the tip of the iceberg. As it was revealed that governments were not only spying on citizens' online activities but also getting other companies involved by requiring them to hand over user data, big names such as Microsoft, Google, and Apple were falling over themselves to appear to be going out of their way to reveal everything they could about the demands made of them. It was the PR machine in action, trying to make the best of a very, very bad situation.
It may not be a new season, but it's time for a Google makeover nevertheless. This time around it is the search results page that has been given a lick of paint, although you might be forgiven for not quite being able to put your finger on what's changed. You'll almost certainly notice that things look a bit different, but the details may escape you. The changes were put in place yesterday, having been heralded on Google+ by Google search designer Jon Wiley who explains that the subtle changes are to bring the desktop look more in line with that used on mobile devices.
The size of search result titles has been boosted, and the underline that was present has now been removed. Wiley says that "we've […] evened out all the line heights [which] improves readability and creates an overall cleaner look". This all sounds great in principle. After all, as Wiley points out, it helps to make "the multi-device experience more consistent". But it also ushers in a few concerns.
If there was ever anyone more qualified to talk about the web than Tim Berners-Lee, I would like to meet them. The man responsible for inventing the World Wide Web (a heavy burden for anyone to carry, I'm sure) joins us today in celebrating the 25th anniversary of the web.
But the big news isn't that Berners-Lee has been able to watch his baby grow up, go through a difficult teenage stage and flourish into adulthood, bringing us up to the quarter century the web has been with us. The real news is the inventor of the web calling for a "digital bill of rights".
Mobile users are just getting around to upgrading their handsets to take advantage of 4G networks, but this simply is not fast enough. UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, spoke at CeBIT announcing that the country will join forces with Germany to develop the successor to 4G -- the uninspiringly-named 5G. The PM announced a deal with Germany which will help to push forward with the development of a mobile broadband network that will offer download speeds up to 1,000 times those currently available on 4G.
To put this kind of speed in perspective, as the Prime Minister explained, an 800MB movie (or any other type of file for that matter) could be download in a single second. One second. For the best part of a gig of data. On a mobile device. Who is going to say no to that? Ultimately, the adoption rate will be determined by the costs involved -- mobile tariffs, suitable handsets, data charges, and coverage -- but before any of this becomes an issue, 5G needs to be, well, invented really.
Europol, the law enforcement agency for the European Union, is warning that people should exercise extreme caution when using WiFi hotspots when out and about. Citing an increase in the number of "man-in-the-middle" attacks on such connections, the head of Europol's cybercrime division, Troels Oerting, said that public WiFi connections are being used to "steal information, identity or passwords and money from the users who use [them]". The advice is to not necessarily stop using public networks, but to avoid using them for anything that involves transmitting personal data.
Singled out for particular attention is online banking, which Oerting suggests people should do "from home where they know actually the wi-fi and its security" rather than in a coffee shop. Europol is currently working with several member states of the European Union following an increase in the number of WiFi network attacks.
You can't argue with free can you? The absence of a price tag makes just about anything seem more attractive, and the latest company to join the freebie party is none other than Getty Images, that bastion of photos whose pictures you cannot fail to have seen in newspapers, magazines and on websites. Previously only available to those willing to cough up the cash, Getty Images' new Embed Images tool can now be used by any to... well... embed images into web pages and blog posts. And there are literally millions to choose from.
Sounds great, right? You must have found yourself struggling to find a royalty free image to use in a blog post, ultimately settling for working with something less than ideal -- after all, you wouldn’t just "borrow" an image from another site, would you? Now you can simply head over to the Getty Images site and, assuming you're not going to use pictures for commercial purposes, start browsing for and using whatever photos take your fancy. Hoorary!
The internet is awash with porn. If you want to find something a little titillating, have a taste for the weird, or just want some good old fashion hardcore, you don’t have to look too far to satiate that desire. But if you have been looking to Vine to get your kicks -- and seriously, there must be some better places to look! -- you're going to have to turn your attention elsewhere, as a complete porn ban has been put in place.
It does not matter if you want to share porny videos of yourself with a loved one privately, everything that falls into the category of "Pornography and Sexually Explicit Content" is outlawed. Vine's terms of service state in no uncertain terms that "You may not post Content that... Is pornographic or sexually explicit", and the Vine Rules make it abundantly clear what is permitted and what is not.