A Useless Investigation

Yesterday the European Commission announced that it opened an anti-trust investigation against Google. Part of the investigation is wether Google is intentionally lowering the search ranking of competing vertical search engines (e.g. product search engines) in favor of its own ones.

The investigation is mostly based on a complaint by UK company Foundem and other companies like Ciao, the Bing (=Microsoft) owned price comparison engine. As you can see from the screenshot, Foundem is specialized in vertical search and has an interest to appear in search results of the big search engines, of course.

Foundem Vertical search Engine

Foundem is also the driving force (or maybe the only one?) behind the Search Neutrality initiative. The initiative (Foundem) provides some statistics that should prove its argument.

The company is also a member of ICOMP (Initiative for a Competitive Online Market Place) which aims to promote widespread support for principles that are essential to a healthy online environment. ICOMP has members from all over the world, though many are fairly unknown, at least to me. The most prominent member is Microsoft which is also sponsoring the initiative.  As you can probably guess already, ICOMP is supporting the investigation.

Well, like Danny Sullivan (see link at the end of the post) I decided to have a look at Google, Yahoo! and Bing myself and see how the big search engines rank results. I opted for two simple queries, a product (MacBook) and a travel destination (Greece). The results look like this:


Google search results for macbook

Yahoo search results for macbook

Bing search results for macbook


Google search results for greece

Yahoo search results for greece

Bing search results for greece

There’s not much difference between the big search engines. So what’s really the point of Foundem’s complaint? Publicity? And are Yahoo! and Bing next on the list of the European Commission? That won’t be the intention of ICOMP, I guess.

Social Bar: Addition to Google Friend Connect

On Wednesday Google released a new addition to Friend Connect, the Social Bar. I tried to add some Friend Connect widgets to the sidebar of my blog before, but failed miserably. Somehow none of the widgets displayed anything. Maybe adding them as text widgets wasn’t the right way. Though actually, I have no idea what went wrong. Maybe just another proof that this blog’s tagline is correct. 😉

Anyway, the new Social Bar is a navigation bar which includes the basic widgets like joining and commenting on the blog. It is very easy to install (just some code has to be added somewhere to the <body> of the site), and, as an additional benefit, keeps the sidebar clean. The navigation bar can be installed on top or bottom of a site.

As usual, users can log into Friend Connect either with a Google account or an OpenID. Also users can choose between their Google, Plaxo, Twitter, and Orkut profiles. The Plaxo profile can be activated via OAuth while the Twitter one requires username and password. Time for OAuth on Twitter, I guess. I am clueless how this works with Orkut. I don’t have an account there.

Google Profile
Google Profile

I am not sure if I’ll keep the Social Bar on my blog. So far it isn’t really enhancing this blog’s functions but it’s quite nice and may change overt time when more functions will be added. Currently it’s up here just for testing purposes. So if you want to comment or join the site, please do so. But I can’t promise that the bar will still be up next month.

One More Step to Open the Social Graph

Just in time for the O’Reilly Social Graph Foo Camp this weekend, Google has released its Social Graph API. The API accesses publicly available pages and checks for relations between them.


Relations in this case are basically just some simple links between two or more websites, though they have to be marked up in XFN or FOAF formats to be indexed; e.g. XFN consists of a <rel> attribute to the <a> tag providing these values to describe a relationship:

  • acquaintance, friend, contact
  • me
  • co-worker, colleague
  • neighbor, co-resident
  • parent, child, spouse, kin, sibling
  • crush, muse, sweetheart, date
  • met

Especially the first two bullet points are important for leveraging the social graph. The first one is obvious: my friends and contacts. Though the second one – me – is equally important because users can easily link to their profiles on other websites. Readers running a WordPress blog are probably familiar with XFN already because the blogroll can be marked up with those values already.

Is Google Owning my Social Graph Now?

This is the good thing: no, it doesn’t. It’s just an API and nothing is stored on Google’s servers (Update: This could be misunderstood. Of course, the data comes from Google’s crawler, so data is stored at Google. Though there are no profile pages build). Everyone can use it to display the data of their relationships in any way they want to. Plaxo is the first company using the API to make users’ public profiles more lively by aggregating data from their news feed – Plaxo calls it Pulse. That’s just one example how the data could be used, other companies or individuals will follow.

Just a Step

The Google API is just a first step making it easier for developers to build tools and products upon it. For endusers it is still a rather technical issue. They have to mark up relationships in blog posts if they want to really benefit from it already; well, DiSo to the rescue 🙂 Also in most cases they have to run their own website or blog where they are able to add those relationships. So it’s also up to exisiting web applications and social networks to mark up profile pages and friends lists.

If you prefer a visual explanation of the API just watch the video by Google’s Brad Fitzpatrick.

Funny Timestamps

Google has introduced timestamps to Google Reader today. They indicate when a post was published and when it was received by Google Reader. While testing FeedDemon I noticed that it was receiving posts often faster than Google Reader. I had a look at the timestamps more closely throughout the day and it is quite funny. Here are some examples:




There doesn’t seem to be any rule. From what I can say it doesn’t depend on timezones and it also doesn’t depend on the blog’s popularity. Is there any secret to fetching feeds? I mean, there are ping services like Ping-o-matic which are used by many blogs, I guess; it is even a WordPress default service, so there shouldn’t be much difference. Also it surely doesn’t depend on pinging Google’s own blog search. I ping that one myself but often posts are delayed for more than two hours.

So if you wonder why a blog post that you just received has already ten comments when you click through, there is an answer now. Anyone has an explanation? It’s not an essential question but would be good to know. 🙂

Creators of OpenID?

I am German, but I am blogging in English. Though my English could be much better and I am probably using wrong terms every once in a while; I am well aware of this. But did I really give the impression I was one of the creators of OpenID? Sure, I blog about it and helped launching Spread OpenID but does this make me a creator of it? Well, VNUNET – a company running multiple technology websites – thinks so:

This will prevent phishing, according to the author and one of the creators of OpenID Carsten Potter.
“To prevent users from phishing … users choose some text, an image or colour which they will see each time they sign in to Yahoo! If they don’t see it they are on a phishing site. Other providers offer similar features but Yahoo!’s seems to be really well done,” wrote Potter.

Well, while this is basically a good laugh (but also quite embarrassing), the VNUNET article should mention and quote people who are far more involved with OpenID than I am: Brad Fitzpatrick, anyone of the OpenID Foundation, representatives of JanRain, Simon Willison, a Yahoo! developer maybe,… Not me, though!

I will send an email or comment to VNUNET. The info has to be corrected. I made a screenshot of the article, though. Whenever I need to laugh I will have a look at it.

Oh yeah, Google’s Blogger has become an OpenID provider as well. This seems to be real news, though. 😉