Lyrics Site Accuses Google of Lifting Its Content

Google

The Wall Street Journal:

Genius Media Group Inc. depends on Google’s search engine to send music lovers to its website stocked with hard-to-decipher lyrics to hip-hop songs and other pop hits.

Now Genius says its traffic is dropping because, for the past several years, Google has been publishing lyrics on its own platform, with some of them lifted directly from the music site. […]

Starting around 2016, Genius said, the company made a subtle change to some of the songs on its website, alternating the lyrics’ apostrophes between straight and curly single-quote marks in exactly the same sequence for every song.

When the two types of apostrophes were converted to the dots and dashes used in Morse code, they spelled out the words “Red Handed.”

Amazon and Google Launch Ad-Based ‘Free’ Music Tiers

Technology

Amazon:

And so, beginning today, customers in the U.S. who do not yet have a Prime membership or a subscription to Amazon Music Unlimited will now be able to listen to an ad-supported selection of top playlists and stations for free with Amazon Music on compatible Alexa-enabled devices.

Google:

Listening to music on your Google Home speaker right out-of-the-box seems too good to be true, right? It’s not! Starting today, YouTube Music is offering a free, ad-supported experience on Google Home speakers (or other Google Assistant-powered speakers).

Google+ to be Shut Down on April 2nd

Google

Google+ will officially be shut down on April 2nd, 2019:

On April 2nd, your Google+ account and any Google+ pages you created will be shut down and we will begin deleting content from consumer Google+ accounts. Photos and videos from Google+ in your Album Archive and your Google+ pages will also be deleted. You can download and save your content, just make sure to do so before April. Note that photos and videos backed up in Google Photos will not be deleted.

A Serf on Google’s Farm

Google

Josh Marshall, writing at Talking Points Memo:

Now Google can say – and they are absolutely right – that every month they send checks for thousands and millions of dollars to countless publishers that make their journalism possible. And in general Google tends to be a relatively benign overlord. But as someone who a) knows the industry inside and out – down to the most nuts and bolts mechanics – b) someone who understands at least the rudiments of anti-trust law and monopoly economics and c) can write for a sizable audience, I can tell you this: Google’s monopoly control is almost comically great. It’s a monopoly at every conceivable turn and consistently uses that market power to deepen its hold and increase its profits. Just the interplay between DoubleClick and Adexchange is textbook anti-competitive practices.

Google Search Uses a Medical Quiz to Help Diagnose Depression

Google

Jon Fingas, writing for Engadget:

Only half of Americans who face depression get help for it, and Google is determined to increase that percentage. As of today, it’s offering a medically validated, anonymous screening questionnaire for clinical depression if you search for information on the condition. This won’t definitively indicate that you’re clinically depressed, to be clear, but it will give you useful information you can take to a doctor. And importantly, the very presence of the questionnaire promises to raise awareness and promote treatment beyond what a basic information card would offer.

The Campaign Against Facebook and Google’s Ad “Duopoly” Is Going Nowhere

Google

Alex Kantrowitz, writing for BuzzFeed:

For well over a year now, the digital advertising and publishing industries have grappled with the growing power of Google and Facebook, which suck up 98% of every new ad dollar spent online, according to some estimates. With so much growth and power concentrated in just two companies, publishers worry about the viability of their ad businesses, while advertisers bemoan their loss of leverage around ad buys.

Deeply unsettled by the idea of a Google-Facebook duopoly, both groups have done what they can to defend against it. But so far, nothing they’ve done seems to have worked.

It seems so obvious to say that two companies controlling this much of the online advertising market is bad.

Google Chrome Will Automatically Block Annoying Ads

Google

George Slefo, writing for Ad Age:

Google’s Chrome browser will soon come with preinstalled technology that will block the most annoying ads currently marring the web experience, the company confirmed on Thursday.

Publishers will be able to understand how they will be affected through a tool Google is dubbing “The Ad Experience Report.” It will basically score a publisher’s site and inform them which of their ads are “annoying experiences.”

At the same time, Chrome will give publishers the option to force a choice on people running their own ad blocking software: whitelist the site so its non-annoying ads can display or pay a small fee to access the content ad-free.

I’m assuming Google’s annoyingly shitty ads will display just fine? I think I’m fine with the move to build this into the browser, but I think Google’s own ads, specifically their tracking capabilities, are just as big a problem as the ones that dance all over my screen on Alternative Press’ homepage.

How Google Ate CelebrityNetWorth.com

Google

Adrianne Jeffries, writing for The Outline:

In February 2016, Google started displaying a Featured Snippet for each of the 25,000 celebrities in the CelebrityNetWorth database, Warner said. He knew this because he added a few fake listings for friends who were not celebrities to see if they would pop up as featured answers, and they did.

“Our traffic immediately crumbled,” Warner said. “Comparing January 2016 (a full month where they had not yet scraped our content) to January 2017, our traffic is down 65 percent.” Warner said he had to lay off half his staff. (Google declined to answer specific questions for this story, including whether it was shooting itself in the foot by destroying its best sources of information.)

When Google’s priorities were about sending searchers to the best website online that had the information someone was looking for, it was great. This new era of competing against the websites themselves seems like it’s going to backfire. What incentive does a website have to exist, and how can it continue to exist, if it is cannibalized by Google once it gets popular?

Advertisers Seek More Control After Unintended Breitbart Spots

Google

Jessica Toonkel, writing for Reuters:

Some advertisers are working overtime to scrub their spots from websites including Breitbart News, an unintended consequence of the automated ad buying systems that are meant to lower costs and allow for more targeted advertising.

Those trying to keep their ads off certain websites are finding they must take steps to verify the spots they bid for are where ads actually appear and that there are no third parties involved that can result in ads winding up in unintended places.

Another consequence of just throwing your ads up everywhere and praying for clicks: you don’t know where your brand ends up being shown, and what it’s next to.

Guetzli: A New JPEG Encoder From Google

Google

Google Research Europe:

At Google, we care about giving users the best possible online experience, both through our own services and products and by contributing new tools and industry standards for use by the online community. That’s why we’re excited to announce Guetzli, a new open source algorithm that creates high quality JPEG images with file sizes 35% smaller than currently available methods, enabling webmasters to create webpages that can load faster and use even less data.

Guetzli [guɛtsli] — cookie in Swiss German — is a JPEG encoder for digital images and web graphics that can enable faster online experiences by producing smaller JPEG files while still maintaining compatibility with existing browsers, image processing applications and the JPEG standard. […]

And while Guetzli produces smaller image file sizes without sacrificing quality, we additionally found that in experiments where compressed image file sizes are kept constant that human raters consistently preferred the images Guetzli produced over libjpeg images, even when the libjpeg files were the same size or even slightly larger. We think this makes the slower compression a worthy tradeoff.

Impressive.

Google to Revamp Ad Policies After Brands Boycott

Google

Bloomberg:

The U.S. company said in a blog post Friday it would give clients more control over where their ads appear on both YouTube, the video-sharing service it owns, and the Google Display Network, which posts advertising to third-party websites.

The announcement came after the U.K. government and the Guardian newspaper pulled ads from the video site, stepping up pressure on YouTube to police content on its platform.

France’s Havas SA, the world’s sixth-largest advertising and marketing company, pulled its U.K. clients’ ads from Google and YouTube on Friday after failing to get assurances from Google that the ads wouldn’t appear next to offensive material. Those clients include wireless carrier O2, Royal Mail Plc, government-owned British Broadcasting Corp., Domino’s Pizza and Hyundai Kia, Havas said in a statement.

Google’s Algorithm Is Lying to You About Onions

Google

Tom Scocca, writing for Gizmodo:

A little under five years ago, I got angry about a piece of fake information, and I decided to do something about it. I was reading a recipe in the New York Times, and the recipe told me, as many, many recipes had told me before, that it would take about 10 minutes of cooking to caramelize onions.

I knew from personal experience that this was a lie. Recipes always said it took 5 or 10 minutes to caramelize onions, and when you followed the recipes, you either got slightly cooked onions or you ended up 40 minutes behind schedule. So I caramelized some onions and recorded how long it really took — 28 minutes if you cooked them as hot as possible and constantly stirred them, 45 minutes if you were sane about it — and I published those results on Slate, along with a denunciation of the false five-to-10 minute standard. […]

Not only does Google, the world’s preeminent index of information, tell its users that caramelizing onions takes “about 5 minutes” — it pulls that information from an article whose entire point was to tell people exactly the opposite. A block of text from the Times that I had published as a quote, to illustrate how it was a lie, had been extracted by the algorithm as the authoritative truth on the subject.

There are quite a few examples of how Google’s massively dropping the ball with their “one true answer” feature.

Google Adds Sharable Location Lists in Maps

Google

Google has launched sharable location lists in Google Maps:

The new feature adds another layer to the already-existing “save” option in Google Maps. Once you pinpoint a desired location, you can hit the “save” button to reveal a number of premade lists including “Want to Go,” “Starred,” and “Favorites.” Then you can choose the list you want the location to live in, or create a new list with a personalized title like “Vacation.” In Google Maps’ menu, you can find all your saved lists in the “Your Places” folder when you want to recall saved locations. Now each list will have a “share” button as well, which lets you grab its link to share with others or share it via different social networks. This should make it easier to share things like favorite restaurants and shopping locations with visiting out-of-town family and the like.

This is a really cool feature. I’ve used apps like Relay and Rego in the past to achieve something similar.

Chrome 56 Adds Native FLAC Support

Google

The next version of Chrome will bring support for the FLAC audio codec directly in the browser.

Chrome 56 is currently in the beta channel and should hit stable in about a week. When released, it will bring support for the FLAC audio codec directly in the browser. This will provide a quick way to play those files, with the Mac being the biggest platform to benefit due to a lack of native support.