Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Google the next Netscape

Microsoft might be king of the software world, but it's having to play catch up in the increasingly important world of Internet and desktop search, chasing the substantial leads of Google, Yahoo and others. Various media outlets today reveal that Microsoft will unveil its search tool tomorrow. While the company has been mum on specifics, it appears that Google -- which beat Gates & Co. out of the gates last month when it unveiled its Desktop Search tool -- can breathe easy, for now. Microsoft's search engine appears half baked, according to the Associated Press: "The preview that begins Thursday won't include technology to let people search their own computer desktops as well as the broader Internet. But the company has promised that desktop search functionality by year's end." The AP noted that "Microsoft has long offered a search engine on its MSN Web site, but the technology behind it has been powered by subsidiaries of Yahoo Inc. Earlier this year, the Redmond-based software giant conceded that it had missed a large market opportunity by not developing its own search technology, and announced plans to launch its own search engine."

"Sergey Brim, founder of Google, the world's number one search engine denied the accusation of censorship towards the Abu Ghraib photos in collaboration with the Bush administration. According to a November 8th article on El Pais, if you typed "Abu Ghraib", "Lynndie England" or "Charles Graner" on Google's photo search, the pictures did not appear on the result page, whereas they did if you searched them on Yahoo! or Alta Vista. Sergey Brim retorted that technical problems were at fault for the incident."

Still a very good article from Adam, L. Penenberg, Wired, about Google news and the newspaper industry. The quote is a bit long (sorry for the copyright), just because the paper is more than interesting and prospective: "Google has a problem that is nearly as complex as its algorithms. It can't make money from Google News. So while other online publishers like Yahoo News and MSNBC earn tens of millions of dollars in revenue each year and continue to grow, Google News remains in beta mode -- three years after it launched -- long after most of the bugs have been excised. The reason: The minute Google News runs paid advertising of any sort it could face a torrent of cease-and-desist letters from the legal departments of newspapers, which would argue that "fair use" doesn't cover lifting headlines and lead paragraphs verbatim from their articles. Other publishers might simply block users originating from Google News, effectively snuffing it out." "What is fair use of a copyright work? According to New York University, where I teach, it covers comment, criticism, news reporting, research, scholarship and teaching, with several factors considered, including how much material is involved as a percentage of the entire work and whether use is of a commercial nature or strictly for nonprofit, educational purposes.

... And it's not only in lawsuit-crazy America that Google's aggregate news model faces an uncertain legal future. Earlier this year, a court in Hamburg, Germany, ruled against Google's German news service when it found that thumbnail images were protected under German copyright law and could not be reproduced without permission. (Google has appealed.) A few weeks ago, half a world away, Chinese publishers Sing Tao electronic news service, Ming Pao newspaper and Radio Television Hong Kong, a government-owned radio station, greeted the launch of Google's Hong Kong news with a spate of letters alleging copyright infringement."


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