Weekly Industry News Round up
Welcome back to Tuesday News Day! Find out the latest and biggest news from the tech and internet giants and stay up-to-date with all that is happening in the digital world around you.
The EU is onto Google
Google may be one of the richest companies in the world – Forbes valued it as being worth a massive $132.1 billion this May (source) – but even for a company of that size the £3.8bn fine they received from the EU last week is bound to sting.
The EU’s Competition Commissioner Margarethe Vestager has accused Google of breaching their strict competition laws. The breach is a result of their strategy of offering financial incentives to phone manufacturers in exchange for them selling their phones with the Android operating system preinstalled, which as default includes loads of Google products – including Google Chrome, Google Maps and the Google search widget.
Whilst this may seem like a completely fair business strategy, it has ruffled the feathers of Google’s competitors and the EU – companies such as Microsoft and DuckDuckGo have complained that because Android is installed on roughly 76% of the world’s smartphones (in fact 85.9% of those sold in the first quarter of 2018 were preinstalled with the Android OS), that it offers Google an unfair advantage and no opportunity for them to compete.
And while this may be true, it’s also worth noting that 95% of the world’s searches are completed using Google. So are Google monopolising the market and preventing the success of others, or are they just simply giving the people what they want? Either way, it’s likely that this will result in Google having to charge phone manufacturers such as Samsung to have Android installed – making smartphones even more expensive for consumers. And how likely is it really that anyone will be opting to install DuckDuckGo search over Google anyway?
Google doesn’t give a Duck.com
Another story highlighting Google’s efforts to quash the competition – and this time it’s targeted at one rival in particular. DuckDuckGo, a company with products including a search engine that’s USP is its lack of tracking and ad targeting (so no more adverts following you around the internet for a year after you purchase one specific product), has accused Google of cleverly trying to divert users looking for their website back to Google. DuckDuckGo claims that Google owns the domain ‘duck.com’, and have been redirecting anyone that types in that URL back to their own homepage, which they claim has consistently confused their users for a number of years.
But, interestingly, the domain was registered in 1995, back before Google and DuckDuckGo were either around. And what we’ve found when searching duck.com is the below Google page, which clearly explains why they own the domain and offers the option to go to DDG. So something that has been reported as being quite malicious on Google’s part actually appears to be completely innocent when investigated further. Another case in this ‘Fake News’ day and age for not believing everything you read online (except our posts of course…) without doing your own research first. And it also makes us question why the media haven’t done the same research before publishing their reports? We’ll leave you to decide.
An idiot’s guide to Googlebombing
Anti-Trump activists have found a new way to mess with the US President. Using a practice known as ‘Googlebombing’ – manipulating Google’s search algorithms using a flood of people to get something specific to the top of Google for a certain word – a large group on the internet were able to alter the image results for the search term ‘idiot’ to various photos of Donald Trump.
Google’s algorithm uses ‘upvotes’ (similar to Facebook likes) on Reddit as an important ranking signal, so the more upvotes a post has, the more likely that content is to appear at the top of Google for a certain search. Redditors took advantage of this knowledge by posting several photos of Trump with his name and the word ‘idiot’, and supporters ‘upvoted’ these posts tens of thousands of times. The resulting coverage from media outlets such as The Guardian have only boosted the efforts further – and the effects can still be seen at the time of writing this post.
In this new age of internet activism Googlebombing joins the likes of online petitions that use virality to gain traction, for example the recent ‘Trump blimp’ campaign that you’ve likely heard of. And it will be interesting to see how this develops.
Of course, this exposes one of the biggest flaws with Google search, it’s AI has become so advanced, it can sometimes seem to predict our thoughts, wants and needs, but at it’s core it’s still simply a (granted incredibly complex) set of code and numbers. And whilst this instance was relatively innocent, in this time of ongoing debate around social media election influence in both the US and UK, it begs the question as to whether these methods could be used for more sinister purposes in the future.
Concerns about Facebook privacy – what else is new?
In yet another story about Facebook and user data, the social media platform has suspended one of its analytics or ‘consumer insights’ firms, Crimson Hexagon (are they sure that’s not the name of a Marvel supervillain?), to investigate concerns about how the company handles the collection and sharing of user data.
In other news – the sky is blue, grass is green, and Google will always dominate the search market.