MediaFile

Google customizes search results with a smattering of your own content

Google rolled out a big change to its search engine on Tuesday that will allow people to find private items, such as online family photos, in their search results.

The new search feature, dubbed “Google Search, plus Your World,” essentially creates customized search results for different users, displaying publicly available Web content alongside any relevant personal online content.

Right now that means search results can feature private photos stored within Google’s Picasa service, as well as photos and posts from Google+, the company’s social network.

If you’re logged in to Google, and you search for Hawaii, you might see photos that your friends or family have shared with you about Hawaii, or musings related to Hawaii from friends on Google+, alongside the standard Web fare about the Pacific islands.

The new search feature also means that a search on an individuals’ name will suggest the one that’s most relevant to you, such as a Ben Smith that you’re personally connected with on Google+ instead of a generic list of results for all Ben Smiths.

Tech wrap: Nook too costly for Barnes & Noble?

Barnes & Noble cut its Nook sales forecast for this year and shocked investors by saying it was considering a sale of the electronic reader and tablet business, sending its shares down sharply. The bookseller has been banking on the Nook for growth, so news that holiday sales of the basic touchscreen e-reader were disappointing raised investors’ fears that Barnes & Noble was struggling to keep up with Amazon.com’s Kindle.  ”They’re going to have to raise capital for Nook if they want to stay viable,” said Morningstar analyst Pete Wahlstrom.

Michael Woodford, the former CEO of Olympus, is dropping his bid to retake control of the troubled company because of lack of support from Japanese institutional investors, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Woodford will announce his decision to give up a proxy battle with management on Friday, the report said, citing an unidentified aide. Woodford was fired as chief executive in October and blew the whistle on a $1.7 billion accounting scandal at the Japanese maker of medical devices and cameras.

AT&T is on track to finish its wireless network upgrade with faster mobile Web services by the end of 2013, having exceeded its target for 2011 by 4 million people, a top executive said.

Five 2011 tech earthquakes

By John C Abell
The opinions expressed are his own.

Pick a year: It’s easy to look back and convince yourself That Was The Year That Was in tech, partly because the pace of change is so rapid and partly because we so readily embrace and then quickly depend on things that are completely different. Consider this: When the class of 2012 was applying to college, there was no iPhone. Until those students were just about at the end of their  junior years, there was no iPad. Both of these nascent devices now define the mobile Internet, which is where all the action is.

But 2011 had some pretty remarkable advances that seem to be the start of inexorable things to come, as well as some surprising and sad examples of demise, whose impact will surely be felt for years to come, in ways that are currently near-impossible to predict.

Some may argue that 2011 was the year of the tablet (redux), because of the spritely launch of Amazon’s Fire and Barnes & Noble’s reboot of the Nook color. I say, it was bound to happen, and that the only really interesting thing is that content companies are giving Apple a bit of competition, and not the hardware bigwigs.

Tech wrap: RIM’s “BBM” trademark target of new legal challenge

Research In Motion, still smarting over having to change the name of its yet-to-come operating system, faces a similar trademark challenge to its popular instant-messaging service BlackBerry Messenger. The service, which allows BlackBerry users to send each other text and multimedia files and see when they are delivered and read, is widely known and even promoted by RIM via the shorthand BBM. That has proven an encumbrance to BBM Canada, which measures radio and television audience data and expects its day in a Federal Court against RIM by February.

RIM seems determined to keep using the BBM name and not to pay BBM anything. “We believe that BBM Canada is attempting to obtain trademark protection for the BBM acronym that is well beyond the narrow range of the services it provides and well beyond the scope of rights afforded by Canadian trademark law,” it said in an emailed statement.

Facebook, Google and Yahoo, and other internet firms, have been ordered by two Indian courts to remove material considered religiously offensive, the latest skirmish in a growing battle over website content in the world’s largest democracy. One court in the capital Delhi on Friday issued summons to 19 companies to stand trial for offences relating to distributing obscene material to minors, after being shown images it said were offensive to Hindus, Muslims and Christians, the PTI news agency said.

Tech wrap: Yahoo to cut Asian stake

Yahoo is considering a plan to unload most of its prized Asian assets in a complex deal valued at roughly $17 billion, sources familiar with the matter said.

The former Internet powerhouse’s increasing difficulty in competing with heavyweights such as Google and Facebook have forced it to explore proposals to revamp its business.

Weakening economies and falling prices of rival smartphones are hurting sales of Apple iPhones across Europe, data from research firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech showed on Thursday.

White House’s #40dollars campaign is a hit

This is politics in 2011: Newt Gingrich is campaigning for Iowa caucus votes in bookstores that aren’t even in the first-to-vote state, Mitt Romney is burnishing his national lead over everyone but Gingrich with a self-deprecating “Top 10 List” on Late Night with David Letterman — and the White House is burning up Twitter in a showdown with House Republicans.

Read elsewhere for the ins and outs of the brinkmanship on the legislation whose primary purpose is to extend a so-called “payroll tax holiday” past Dec. 31.  Inaction will result in the end of a sweet tax break for workers that’s not quite as sweet for the federal coffers. Depending on which side of the debate you are on, you can find plenty of spin to try to seize the high ground. The Obama administration has been fond of saying that the end of the holiday will cost 160 million U.S. taxpayers an average of $1,000 in 2012 — by pure coincidence, a presidential election year.

But the president’s communications team has become even fonder of crafting its message for the social media generation by breaking up that $1,000 into a more bite-sized $40 pieces, per bi-weekly paycheck. Through that massaging of the message, they have created a Twitter trending topic called #40dollars. It’s not surprising that Obama’s team has been particularly adroit at the whole internet thing. Their man was a candidate who famously sought a meeting with Mark Andreessen — the two had never met — to talk about how social media might be leveraged in the 2008 election he won against considerable odds.

Glimpses of Carol Bartz legacy in Yahoo’s rollout of expanded Facebook integration

Yahoo is expanding its Facebook “frictionless sharing” capabilities, letting users of its entertainment websites automatically broadcast their reading habits across Facebook’s social network.

Yahoo websites including Yahoo Movies, Yahoo TV and omg! – Yahoo’s celebrity gossip site – will now offer the type of Facebook integration that Yahoo introduced for Yahoo News earlier this year.

If you opt-in and choose to use the social sharing feature, every time you read an article on one of those websites, the name of the article and a link is instantly beamed into the newsfeed of all your Facebook friends.

Tech wrap: D.Telekom may be forced to play with Sprint

Deutsche Telekom may be forced into a tie-up of its sub-scale U.S. wireless unit with Sprint Nextel after a $39 billion deal with AT&T collapsed.

AT&T said on Monday it had dropped its bid for T-Mobile USA, bowing to fierce regulatory opposition and leaving both companies scrambling for alternatives.

The collapse of AT&T’s deal to buy D.Telekom’s U.S. wireless unit may be welcome news for network equipment makers, as money earmarked for the merger will be freed up for investments.

Facebook: home (at last) for the holidays

Courtesy: Facebook

Since it was created in a Harvard dorm room in 2004, Facebook has moved its homebase around many times, relocating to the West coast and bouncing from building to building in Silicon Valley as its ranks have grown.

Now the company has finally settled down. Facebook said it had completed the move into its new corporate headquarters in Menlo Park, with the final wave of employees reporting for duty at the new office Monday morning.

Following the standard script for Web company “new office” announcements, Facebook proudly catalogued the various perks and cool design motifs on offer at its new digs in a blog post. Among the highlights: “micro kitchens;” exposed ductwork; breakaway “cozie” spaces with couches; and hallways coated in special chalkboard paint (one imagines engineers abruptly stopping mid-walk to passionately scrawl some cryptic formula on the wall, a la Goodwill Hunting).

Microsoft goes social. Sort of.

Microsoft, which owns a small part of Facebook, dipped its own toe in the online social scene this week with a low-key unveiling of its So.cl (pronounced “social”) service.

The site, which is for students to share interesting discoveries online, looks like a curious blend of Facebook and Google +.

Microsoft's so.cl

Right now it’s restricted to certain universities, and is a blend of web browsing, search (Bing, of course) and networking — including what it calls “video party”.