MediaFile

Google walks into privacy Buzz-saw

Google touted its 176 million Gmail users as a key advantage in its latest attempt to break into the red-hot social networking market, dominated by the likes of Facebook and Twitter. But email may turn out to be Google’s Achilles heel.

Less than four days after introducing Google Buzz, a social networking service that is built-in to Gmail, the company is already moving to address a growing privacy backlash.

GoogBuzzAt issue is the network of contacts that Buzz automatically creates for new users based on their existing email contacts, saving people the laborious chore of manually building a social graph from scratch.

The problem is that Google’s ready-made social network is composed of people’s frequent email contacts – which are not necessarily the folks you want to receive regular status updates and random musings from (e.g. your landlord).

But the bigger problem – as many blogs and online publications have pointed out in recent days – is that people’s email contacts are in inherently private and the mere fact of making them publicly accessible can be dangerous.

Microsoft’s Mehdi sees Bing in the black

Microsoft’s Bing search engine hasn’t put a dent in Google’s mastery of the market yet, but executive Yusuf Mehdi thinks it could do so soon, once the search ad partnership with Yahoo is completed.

Bing might even make some money eventually, he suggested in an interview today, once advertisers start to see it as a creditable alternative to Google.

But how long does it have to achieve those goals? Microsoft has lost more than $5 billion in its online business in the last four years. The company keeps saying it is a long-term project, but surely it has to see results soon.

Technology Earnings

Google’s Nexus One muzzles the foul-mouthed

One of the most innovative features of Google’s new Nexus One is the built-in voice recognition. But there’s one major limitation that Reuters discovered while putting the smartphone through its paces: the phone is a bit of a prig.

N1Screen1Try uttering a curse word into the Nexus One, and the well-mannered device will automatically replace the offensive expression with a string of # symbols.

Thus, a jocular text message inquiring about a buddy’s whereabouts is transcribed as “Hey #### where are you?” on the Nexus One; A spirited rejoinder to a dubious assertion becomes “that’s bull #### and you know it.”

Google in China: For most companies, profit trumps human rights

GoogleBy Robert MacMillan

You can find the clearest statement about what’s happening with Google and its threat to quit China over the country’s human rights record in Xinhua, China’s state-run news service – seriously.

“It is still hard to say whether Google will quit China or not. Nobody knows,” an unnamed official told Xinhua. Here’s another comment from the story: “It will not make any difference to the government if Google quits China, however Google will suffer a huge economic loss from leaving the Chinese market.” That’s from Guo Ke, a communications professor at Shanghai International Studies University.

And that’s what you need to know: Google is taking a stand, challenging China to bring its human rights record into line with what it considers its most important tenet: “Don’t be evil.” Now everyone wants to know if other companies also will discover the ethicist inside them and find a purpose more important than making money for shareholders.

Google steals CES spotlight, and a page from Apple

When it comes to blockbuster product introductions, Apple is king. So it’s not surprising that Google, which is looking to challenge Apple’s iPhone dominance, is stealing a page from the Steve Jobs & Co. playbook. Reuters

Reuters

Google emailed invitations to reporters on Tuesday for “an Android press gathering” that will take place at its Mountain View, California headquarters on Jan 5, as rumours continue to swirl that the company is preparing to release a Google-branded smartphone.

Yes, that’s the same week as the big Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where Sony, Microsoft, Samsung et al will dutifully convene to show off their latest doodads.

Google and Yelp: A holiday drama… or farce

Only a few days ago, Yelp insiders seemed on the verge of taking home a $500 million holiday gift basket courtesy of Google, which was in talks to acquire the online publisher of local business reviews.

Now all that good cheer appears to have turned to acrimony, with the deal talks in tatters and the two sides pointing fingers.

googleBlogTechCrunch, the blog that initially reported news of discussions between Google and Yelp, said on Monday that the talks ended abruptly after Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppleman walked away.

Twitter’s price for Tweets: $25 million

The last time the world had a look at Twitter’s financial books, the company was targeting a meager $400,000 in revenue for the third quarter of 2009 and $4 million in the fourth quarter.

But that information was based on documents stolen from Twitter by a hacker and republished by the blog TechCrunch.

And it was before Twitter, the popular microblogging service that allows users to broadcast short, 140-character text messages across the Internet, had inked monumental deals with search giants Google and Microsoft.

Facebook nearing $1 billion revenue run rate, Zynga revenue triples

Everybody knows social media firms are growing like gangbusters. Facebook, for instance, recently surpassed 350 million users, 16 months after reaching 100 million users.

How much money the Web start-ups are making is less clear — though industry-watchers were treated to a few tantalizing revelations this week.

Facebook is within striking distance of a $1 billion annual revenue run rate, according to TBI Research analyst Rory Maher.

Yahoo: We got Tweets too!

If you’re an Internet search engine, having Twitter content adorning your results has become as fashionable as claiming a Tiger Woods liaison seems to be for a certain group of people.

Google and Microsoft both raced to announce deals to incorporate Twitter in their search results within hours of each other in October.

And Yahoo – despite its plan to cease investing in back-end search technology and to outsource the job to Microsoft – does not want to be left out of the action.