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Google Under Siege - Fair or Unfair?
Brett_Tabke




msg:33882
 8:33 pm on Apr 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

The Gmail outcry is huge. The Local search outcry is growing. The number of negative Google stories out there is a surprise.

It seems Google can't please anyone these days.

What is the root of it all?

a) The Florida update?
b) Big - just plain bigness (everyone loves to pick on the big guy)?
c) Poor management?
d) Public relations dept screw up?
e) Competitors planting seeds of division?
f) All of the above?

 

Marls




msg:34032
 5:35 am on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

Just saw this thread. It's terrific. And here's my 2 cents.

Google is run by the programmers. Programmers crunch code, not sell throughs. Hence there apparently is no real-world testing of this stuff before they unleash it. That unleashing can, and I believe is well documented in this thread does, wreck havoc to the sell-throughs of paying, and unsuspecting customers.

The programmers who crunch code also seem it find a good idea to not clue their frontline, read that customer support staff, into the real goings-on. And there apparently isn't much, if any, sharing of new types of complaints amongst the customer support staff which keeps them in the dark about real world problems and enables them to whole heartedly deny that any problem exists when clearly it does.

G isn't being built, or run, for us. I'd suggest that the programmers spend a day or two in focus groups of real users once a month - to see and hear the real world consequences of their actions.

cindysunc




msg:34033
 6:03 am on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

First gmail, don't know what you guys were thinking with that. 1G storage, great. Scanning them to deliver advertising, don't think that's such a good idea.

I remember Google first coming up and remember them being great because of their search. Fast and relevant and they hung their hat on that. Just a search box and a fast and relevant search. I think the search is still pretty relevant but has been exploited just a bit with spam and bloggers first exploiting a weak part of the algo. So relevance has taken a ding here and there and from looking at the results Yahoo's is looking nice. At this point i just wanna know when can we expect the Google portal? I know you started out being all about simple relevant search but times change. I think it's time you start looking at site stickiness because just search ain't going to do it in today's market IMO. Google portal and hopefully by this time next year, i have a few friendly wagers that you will:) You have everything you need, i can imagine a portal like Yahoo or MSN, a place for bloggers to login to their account, latest news, the search box, login to google email account. You have googlemail.com and googlechat.com registered. Think about it, Google Chat Rooms with targetted advertising. Site stickiness is the way to go.

jimh009




msg:34034
 6:47 am on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

I just might be naive, but I still think Google is great. The SE results are still better than anyplace else. AdSense, while perhaps not perfect, is still one heck of a lot better than other ad networks.

As for GMail, I still don't quite grasp what all the fuss is about. Anyone here knows perfectly well that someone at your ISP if they really wanted to could read your email unless it is under some sort of strong encryption.

The only mistake I see with GMail is that Google said that even after your terminate your account with them - the email would still be around on their servers someplace - potentially forever. That is something they need to rethink I believe - and perhaps could go a long ways towards quieting down some of the privacy complaints about their new mail service.

My three cents.

Jim

CCowboy




msg:34035
 8:20 am on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

Brett,

Google's CEO may say there will be no I.P.O. this year, but one only has to visit SEC.GOV and do a search on EDGAR to see they have filed for" Registration of sale of securities." for both Google Inc. and Google Technology Inc.

I guess in truth, he could say Google, Inc. will not be doing and I.P.O., yet Google Technology could.

If there is no I.P.O., it could be for many reasons, public relations being only one. It could also be there is or was a problem that would adversely affect any such I.P.O. or might cause a problem later with the SEC.

What could one such SEC problem be?

Basically anything that could be viewed as manipulating earnings that the company knew or later learned could not be maintained (the Florida update and it's algo.)

It there was such a problem; both Google, their investors and future stock holders would best be served by waiting and fixing the problem, thus enabling them to show more reliable earnings.

BeeDeeDubbleU




msg:34036
 9:00 am on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

As for GMail, I still don't quite grasp what all the fuss is about. Anyone here knows perfectly well that someone at your ISP if they really wanted to could read your email unless it is under some sort of strong encryption.

... and your bank manager could run off with all your money, and your solicitor could shaft you big time, and your doctor could tell the pharma companies about your medical problems so that they could target you for drug sales, etc.

The point is that we put trust in these people through necessity. We have no option and this is not a real comparison.

It seems Google can't please anyone these days.
What is the root of it all?

I think one of the reasons for the furore is that Google has gone from being an uncommercial, "people's friend" organisation to one that now seems driven by the maximization of profit through the spammy techniques that they once deplored. And some of this at the expense of people's privacy.

And pleeeease, don't anyone else say that we don't have to use Gmail. I know that. You know that. But the people that are Google's target market in this either do not know it or do not care.

Having said that, until a couple of weeks ago I was not aware of any real Google outcry outside of this and other forums. The press reports that I was seeing before then were largely complimentary. In Brett's words, it certainly seems like a real "PR screw up" to me.

Leosghost




msg:34037
 10:22 am on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

<<How a webmaster feels about a search engine is 100% directly proportional to the number of referrals said search engine sends them. >>

I'm sure you were the sort o kid who stirred sticks in hornets nests and then stood back to see ... :))

<<Google Chat Rooms with targetted advertising. >>

It's called "google groups" ....

My issue with "g" isn't about how much traffic it sends me ...it's about it's so obviously chasing the money while at the same time telling me its not doing it ....

And that for my own searches it wates my time so much by providing me such "gamed" crap since Florida ...

and then tells me "it" can't see the spammy psuedo directories ..I have seen comments from "google guy" on every subject under the sun except this one ...so I have to assume that for google they are not a problem

And copyright ....which for now I wont start in on again .....

Hissingsid




msg:34038
 10:24 am on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

I think one of the reasons for the furore is that Google has gone from being an uncommercial, "people's friend" organisation to one that now seems driven by the maximization of profit

Spot on!

Its the complete change which is uncomfortable. There's nothing wrong with making profit and we were probably all a tad naive to beleive that Google could grow and develop in an uncommercial form. All of those cheap 'nix boxes and bandwidth must cost a fortune. We almost classed Google as part of the open source movement.

Google still has a very strong brand image and on an individual basis I bet that the majority of people still think of Google as "an uncommercial, "people's friend"". I think that the upsurge of anti Google noise is in reaction to that. Some folks are seeing Google's current love affair with money as a kind of betrayal of trust (OK I know that's a bit of an exageration but you know what I mean).

In the UK we had a Conservative Goverment that had a major (pun) push on promoting family values and honesty. Every one knows that politicians have sex with their secretaries and take back handers from any commercial organisation that is prepared to give them. The UK electorate didn't punish the Conservatives with 16++ years in oblivion for sleaze they did it because they appeared to have betrayed our trust in a hypocritical way.

If I was Google I'd be searching for ways to restore the balance and regain some of the trust that they may have lost/be losing.

Best wishes

Sid

jeffers




msg:34039
 11:25 am on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

Brett, this is the thread I have been waiting for. I have a site which has been the back bone of my business for over a year now. A good honest site following your advice and others on this forum. I offer a good product and do what the site says for a fair price. I also give employment to others. As a result of recent updates I too have suffered, in my opinion, unfairly.

The way I see it Google are either pushing towards getting rid of people like myself who have found a way of making the web work for them and are now looking for more and more paid contributors, or they have just screwed up and have meddled too much with their algos.

Either way they need to know the level of feeling from the people who use the web to make a living. A high profile thread like this is just what was needed.

I would suggest as well that a brainstorming thread is put together in order to gather suggestions for ways that web users/professionals can POSITIVELY provoke change in the Google mentality.

I have looked at threads where web masters have been racking their brains in order to found out how to get back to where they and their clients were before this mess occurred. They have obviously burned the midnight oil and spent hours doing this, all I suspect, to no availe. It is not their fault...It is Googles. They should forget the technical nitty gritty of how and why and concentrate on an old fashioned demonstration. Tell Google how people feel, let them know the adverse effect they are having on peoples livelehoods, find ways of canvessing change, have ideas and make suggestions for alternatives to Google.

If people using this forum don`t do this and now, the only way forward will be Pay for advertising. Thats not the web, thats Yellow pages.

HarryM




msg:34040
 11:32 am on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

Google is run by the programmers.

I think one of the reasons for the furore is that Google has gone from being an uncommercial, "people's friend" organisation to one that now seems driven by the maximization of profit

Both these views can't be right!

My guess is that Google is trying to make a great push forward in order to create more distance between themselves and the increasing competition. Only time will tell if they will be succesful.

Hence there apparently is no real-world testing of this stuff before they unleash it.

I'm sure Google is now doing that off-line, but at some time you have to roll out algo changes into the real world, and the results may not be exactly as anticipated. I think the mistake Google made with Florida was not necessarily the change in the algo, but in implementing it as one big change rather than phasing it in. If the results started causing complaints then they could have backtracked a little.

Leosghost




msg:34041
 11:45 am on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

<<If the results started causing complaints then they could have backtracked a little.>>

They did ...while you were out ..."Brandy"

HarryM




msg:34042
 11:52 am on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

If people using this forum don`t do this and now, the only way forward will be Pay for advertising.

Maybe that's the way it should be. Why should a commercial outfit expect anything for free?

As a resource the internet is still far too heavily commercialised. It's not just for selling things. People use it for information. Students use it to research their course work. Kid's use it for their homework. It's for government agencies, citizen's advice, community groups, etc., not just hotel rooms and airline tickets.

If Google or any other search engine gets the mix right, those people who can't make a living from it should look elsewhere to make money. Perhaps they should got to work.

As a European, I do find this continual bleating about being unable to make a buck so depressing.

HarryM




msg:34043
 11:59 am on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

Leosghost,

You missed my point. Florida was a big bang. Brandy was a big step back. I was suggesting if Florida had been phased in gradually, once the results started to go sour, they could have back out the last change gracefully and there would have been less chance for the anti-Google uproar.

However I don't know what was the change to the algo. Maybe it was so fundamental that Florida had to happen all at once.

Brett_Tabke




msg:34044
 12:04 pm on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

I was talking with a good reporter friend at a major news paper yesterday about the topic of this thread. He made one very interesting point. He said that Google lost their teflon when they added Google News. He said many reporters and shops feel threatened by it. The News section represents complete power over internet news and the ability to set the agenda in Googles favor/image net wide.

BeeDeeDubbleU




msg:34045
 12:25 pm on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

The News sections represents complete power over internet news and the ability to set the agenda in Googles favor/image net wide.

Does this desire to dominate the Internet remind you of anyone? What's the chances of Google facing European lawsuits for anti-competitive behaviour a couple of years down the line.

percentages




msg:34046
 12:54 pm on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

In a word, "Focus".

Google now seems to want to be all things to all people. It is possible to be great at one thing, it is very difficult to be good at many.

Google is under siege, purely because it has lost its focus and is now attempting to provide services where it has no real expertise.

It should get back to search, get that right again, and then quit messing with it in public. By all means innovate and push the envelope, but do it behind locked doors, and don't let it out until very well proven.

Google is suffering from peer pressure and lack of experience. It knows the competition wants a bigger piece of its pie, but instead of protecting what it had, it is chasing their pie.

Attack can be the best form of defense, but it can also be fatal.

europeforvisitors




msg:34047
 12:59 pm on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

I think one of the reasons for the furore is that Google has gone from being an uncommercial, "people's friend" organisation to one that now seems driven by the maximization of profit.

I think Google's real problem is that it's allowed itself to become driven by the maximization of other people's profits through the pollution of information search results by a flood of commercial listings. This makes Google search less valuable and more annoying to the user. In my category, travel, it's like opening a Fodor or Frommer's guidebook to a chapter on Paris and not being able to find basic tourist information because the chapter consists mostly of boilerplate affiliate pages.

The single most useful step that Google could take would be to split e-commerce and affiliate results from information (both commercial and noncommercial) results. Users don't care if Google is making money from AdWords, or using software to display targeted ads with gmail, or causing Webmasters and SEOs to have fits because of revisions to the search algorithm, or upsetting AdSense publishers with a variable-pricing and compensation scheme. Users do care about convenience, accuracy, and freedom from commercial clutter when they're trying to find information on widgets or Widgetville with Google's flagship product: the search page.

mquarles




msg:34048
 2:05 pm on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

My take too. The thing is with Gmail using it is *totally voluntary*. It's not like people won't be able to search for websites using Google unless they also use Gmail. If the privacy implications of Gmail bother anyone, they merely need not sign up, and they'll have no problem at all with it.

rfg,

The first time I send a customer service email to a GMail account that carries an ad for my competitor, based upon the content I wrote, it's no longer "totally voluntary."

MQ

stevenb 1959




msg:34049
 2:25 pm on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

The way human nature is, in times like these for google, its competitors can see these items of concern well in advance of the average individual and they have people in power positions, so they utilize the press to make the matter even worse.
Another thing I see is the large majority of the internet services and anything you want and need that is available on the internet is free in one form or another. Thus the majority of the web surfers are looking and find things for free, so this means gmail and anything else like it that are free will be successful as long as these people find it does what they want it to do. They dont care what pr it gets. It is just like freeware and programs that are free but the method is supposedly illegal but wacks and wacks of people use them. Gmail is no different. It is just a service that will be used alot for exactly what google intends it to be because the market for it is there.

[edited by: stevenb_1959 at 2:30 pm (utc) on April 14, 2004]

Marls




msg:34050
 2:27 pm on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

HarryM

"Google is run by the programmers."

"I think one of the reasons for the furore is that Google has gone from being an uncommercial, "people's friend" organisation to one that now seems driven by the maximization of profit"

Programmers + scalability = maximization of profit. That's why I bet both these views are right. Without the programmers there is little to no scalability.

JudgeJeffries




msg:34051
 2:40 pm on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

I sort of get the feeling thats Brett's taking a 'pop' at Google a lot more often these days which worries me given his pre-eminent position and knowledge of the SE world. Whilst every one wants change for the better it does seem as though Googles ever present, frequent and regular changes do nothing at all to increase the searchers ability to find what they want. Throw everything up in the air and see where it lands is obviously Googles current mantra as they think eventually all will come out right. Instead of reling on a load of academics, the majority of whom will never have had a proper job, they would be better served by taking more notice of what goes on here and perhaps emloy a few of the more able members to help sort out the mess that they are obviously in, (headless chickens springs to mind) before the public abandons them and moves on. For all the market penetration of the name 'Google' I would suggest that Microsoft with its bottomless pockets, undesputable brand name that fires up on most computers every day will, if Bill so desires, wipe them out in a flash. They should take heed not only of the public but also of this industry to which they owe their very existance. Apologies to GG who seems a decent enough man but is probably only a relatively small fish in a big pond. Perhaps he could persuade a couple of the big guns to have a read here now and again...they might learn something.

spinweb




msg:34052
 3:31 pm on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

This may or may not have been covered in this thread, but I think Google's problems are the result of a few main issues:

For webmasters:
- They don't respond to inquiries like they used to. This is probably a function of their growth in popularity, but I just don't get responded to like I used to and probably others don't, either.

- Florida update and see the next point.
- Disappointing results - I don't know if I am more attuned to poor results from Google since Florida, but I have had more searches with unsatisfactory results than prior to November. The general public probably has seen this, too.

In general:
- The same mindset that says "McDonald's made me fat, I'm a victim, sue them" is at work here. Google is now seen as a big company with deep pockets, so "sue them and get rich."

- In a similar vein, Google is wildly successful. For some reason, there is an element in our society that sees being successful and making money as a crime. Unfortunately, in the current environment Google's success works against them as far public relations, although the envious should blame themselves, not Google. Google is innovative, came up with a great idea, and are successful because of that. More power to them.

BigDave




msg:34053
 3:59 pm on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

The News section represents complete power over internet news and the ability to set the agenda in Googles favor/image net wide.

emphasis added by me.

I think that the key to all this uproar (other than the whiney webmasters that got knocked down) is that business types just can't believe that Google will not abuse the power that they have gained, because if they had that power, they would abuse it.

Well, so far, Google hasn't abused its power for commercial gain. They have used their power, but they have not abused it.

kapow




msg:34054
 5:14 pm on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

My company manage 70+ websites for a wide range of businesses, some of which are household names. For years I have raved about Google. I've tried to get anyone and everyone to use Google instead of what ever SE their browser defaults to. Why? because Google helped the net, helped the webmaster and helped the surfer. I was very pleased when Adwords appeard as it meant Google could make a much deserved revenue for their heroic services.

Yesterday in part of a talk to a large group of business owners I said 'business owners need to decide if they will send email to a gmail address (as your email will be surrounded by ads for your competitors)'. You could have heard a pin drop!

I am amazed to find my views changing so fast. Last year I believed Google could do no wrong. Now Google are begining to look like the Microsoft of the internet. It seems they want to possess the whole thing and push everyone else out so only Google can make money from the web.

C'mon Google, its not too late to stop this mess. Its fine if you're biggest and you make money, but don't prevent everyone else while your at it, help them, like you did before.

pleeker




msg:34055
 5:53 pm on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

He said many reporters and shops feel threatened by it. The News section represents complete power over internet news and the ability to set the agenda in Googles favor/image net wide.

I would love to hear more background on this reporter's comment.

How does Google news represent "complete power over Internet news?" In what context did he say that? Does the reporter understand that Google News is all algorithmic-based, and the stories that get major play aren't chosen manually? The stories that get major play on Google News get it because so many online news sources are reporting that story -- which, in essence, puts the power in the hands of the news sources.

News organizations, generally speaking, have felt threatened by the Internet for a long time now. "You mean people don't have to wait for our 6pm news or our morning newspaper to find out what's going on?" "You mean people can actually become publishers in their own right and publish their own news online, refuting our version of the story?" "You mean people actually read this Matt Drudge character?"

Google News is not the real threat to the news media. You can argue the counterpoint that G News helps traditional media by keeping it in front of the faces of millions of users. And that's why I'd love to hear more about the background and context of this reporter's statement.

I do agree 100% with the previous comments about the media building up and then knocking down. Very common. As a wise man once said to an inquiring CNN reporter: "You people -- the media -- you need heroes. You need to create heroes. But if I take the job, you'd kill me. So, I'm backing out." I don't think Google can back out now, though. They just have to deal with it, and make a much more concerted effort to improve their PR efforts.

SyntheticUpper




msg:34056
 5:56 pm on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

Florida killed Google - come out and deny it GG, you've never been a fan of SynthUpper - so just tell it how it was.

Spam filter? - don't make me laugh.

Just say it - explain!

(I've got this horrible European simplicity about me - can't help it - it's not cynicism, it's closer to logic. Just me and my monkey...,.)

BigDave




msg:34057
 6:18 pm on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

Yesterday in part of a talk to a large group of business owners I said 'business owners need to decide if they will send email to a gmail address (as your email will be surrounded by ads for your competitors)'. You could have heard a pin drop!

And anyone that decides not to send e-mail to gmail for such a stupid reason will deserve the drop in their sales.

Think about it for a minute.

- There is a good chance that the customer has multiple connections in the area that they deal in. They already know there are options out there, and there is a better than even money chance that they are already dealing with those companies. That ad will not be news to the customer.

- You are telling a business not to put their name in front of a cuatomer in a good, personal, high content way, for fear that a small blurb and link from a competitor might possibly show up.

- That customer probably gets other mail related to that subject. They will get the competitor's ads, but without having 7/8 of the screen showing information about you in the message area.

- Go ahead and tell your customer that you disapprove of their e-mail address, and make it so dealing with *you* is a hassle for them. But your competitor that advertises on Gmail welcomes them.

Privacy concerns are all well and good, but from a business perspective, what you should be telling them is to:

1. Make sure that your e-mail communications are all top notch so that the ad that pops up next to their letter will have no impact.

2. Advertise on Gmail to try and steal your competitor's customers.

Not sending e-mail to Gmail for *that* reason has got to be one of the stupidest moves an online company can make.

SyntheticUpper




msg:34058
 6:31 pm on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

I hope google/googleguy don't think I'm coming down on them too hard. I still love Google.

Why do you feel the need to say this?

It's totally illogical / bizarre.

Either they get it right, or they get it wrong: where does this puke-making loyalty come from?

Even Google apologists temper their admiration of Google in some way - but declarations of love?

I think Google is still a good search engine, but it is no longer a great one, because the results aren't 'clean' anymore.

But for heaven's sake - digging its grave, or putting our collective tongues in its mouth is not helping anyone.

Duke51




msg:34059
 6:33 pm on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hoo boy! I sat and read this entire thread this morning and my brain hurts.

Google is trying to capitalize on their success, much to the displeasure of those who bought into the whole “Don’t be evil” mantra. And there is nothing wrong with that. Why can they not be rewarded for their hard work? (Evidently, from some of the postings here, Europeans see making money as a bad thing.)

Now, through the Florida update and other actions, many others lost their previous positions and lost money in the process. So, they too, are crying foul.

It’s business folks, get over it. Adapt and overcome. If it’s not working, find another way.

Google is going to do what Google can do to make money. After all, those Segway’s don’t come cheap.

Maybe SearchKing was right.

GoogleGuy




msg:34060
 6:47 pm on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

"I've always known Google was going to take this route, I mean this is exactly what everyone wanted. In those long threads about how we could improve google, Googleguy would go through the list and he would see "search for product/information sites" ... "search for local results" ... "an email offering with low or no spam" .. I know because I was one of those that recommended all of the above"

Good points, born2drv. I do think that if you look at the history of what Google has done over the past few years, we've been experimenting with how to make search and Google better.

Here's an admission: when I first heard about Google Labs, I wasn't sure it was a good idea. If you know an idea is good, why not push it all the way out to product launch? Would it just give competitors ideas? But looking back now, I see that it was the right decision. It keeps Googlers thinking about fun 20% projects. It gives a peek behind the curtain at the ideas that we're thinking of. It gives us good feedback on what people like and it even provides a pretty good source of job leads as people see the interesting things you can do with a copy of the web and want to come to Google. So I appreciate the feedback that I've gotten from WebmasterWorld about things that folks want to see. :)

GoogleGuy




msg:34061
 6:49 pm on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

Let's not turn this into a debate on European values compared to U.S. values or we'll never get back on topic. :)

SyntheticUpper




msg:34062
 6:52 pm on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

GoogleGuy,

There is a theme running throughout this thread - and it is one of blatant commercialisation.

It is hard to ignore, and I appreciate it might be difficult for you to deal with.

But I think it needs addressing.

[edited by: SyntheticUpper at 6:53 pm (utc) on April 14, 2004]

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