Friday, April 20, 2007

Google releases StumbleUpon Competitor

With services like StumbleUpon becoming ever more popular, Google has decided to throw its hat into the ring. On Wednesday, the company added a feature to its toolbar that recommends Web sites based on past search history.

The company has been offering the capability to keep track of past searches since June 2005, integrating the functionality across several of its products. However, it was billed as mostly a feature to help improve future search queries.

Now, that data will be used to recommend new sites that Google customers have not seen based on their past searches. Google says this is meant to allow its users to discover information without typing in a query.

The new feature appears as a pair of dice on the toolbar. "Click on the dice, and we'll take you to a site that may be interesting to you based on your past searches," personalization lead engineer Sep Kamvar said.

50 sites will be available each day, and users must upgrade to the most recent version of the Google Toolbar in order to take advantage of the new feature.

In addition, the company will release a version of the feature aimed at those using its personalized homepage functionality. The tab will be refreshed once daily with new recommendations.

Google's announcement comes amid rumors of a possible acquisition of StumbleUpon by auction site eBay. Both TechCrunch and GigOm reported Wednesday that the company had signed a definitive agreement worth at least $40 million.

"By marrying the [StumbleUpon] toolbar to Skype client, eBay can do an end run around Google's dominance of the search business," Om Malik said of the possible deal. "Skype has been slowly integrating various different services into its client, and slowly becoming eBay's desktop backdoor."

Neither eBay nor StumbleUpon were publicly commenting on the reports.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Boy dupes YouTube to delete videos

A 15-year-old West Australian pretending to represent ABC TV succeeded in having more than 200 clips removed from the video-sharing website YouTube.

The boy signed a form claiming, "under penalty of perjury", that he represented the clips' copyright owners.

The segments, taken from The Chaser's War on Everything, were removed over a month and replaced by this message: "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Australian Broadcasting Corporation."

The latest clip to be removed featured Charles Firth accosting Hillary Clinton. It had been viewed more than 100,000 times before it was taken down yesterday.

"The head of ABC legal is contacting those involved," the head of arts, entertainment and comedy at ABC TV, Courtney Gibson, said. "We are very much keeping our options open in terms of what kind of action we take."

The ABC contacted YouTube after the clip was removed, and was provided with a copy of the form used to claim that a copyright infringement had been committed.

It had been filled out by hand, listing "Loop Australia" as the company acting for the "Australian Broddcasting Corperation".

The ABC has no affiliation with the company, or the boy whose Hotmail account was given as a business contact.

"I don't think we should prosecute him - we should probably hire him," said the Chaser's Julian Morrow. "If they are copyright crusaders, I hope they don't look too closely at the old days' The Chaser newspaper."

Ms Gibson said the removal of the clips was in direct contrast to ABC's policy on content sharing. "[ABC wishes] to get our content out there on as many platforms as possible, run by as many different operators as possible."

The incident comes after Viacom, parent company of MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central, filed a lawsuit seeking more than $US1 billion ($1.28 billion) from Google and YouTube for copyright infringement.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Windows Fiji: Vista Ultimate 2.0

It is widely known that Microsoft plans to release an small upgrade to Vista before focusing on Vienna, currently known to us as "Windows Fiji". Fiji is however by no means a new OS, indeed it is simply an update to Vista Ultimate, when Vista SP1 will be released in the latter half of 2007, Ultimate users will be able to opt for Fiji instead. Whether this will be free of charge, like usuals service packs, is still not known.

Other than regular updates Fiji is slated to included:

- Ultimate Extras that have been made available for download
- A new photo manipulation tool, GroupShot
- A new music authoring tool, codenamed "Monaco" (unconfirmed)
- A major update to Media Center
- Internet Explorer 8
- HDView (Hi-Def Image Viewer)

- Windows Media Player 11.5 (support for HD content)
- PHLAT interface for Vista search
- Several minor tweaks to other applications

Most if lot all of the software and feature will eventually make its way to other versions of Vista (particularly Home Premium) so no need to get upset.

Internet Explorer 8 shaping up with Web Assistant

Microsoft has debuted the planning for Internet Explorer 8 since early January 2007. In addition, the Redmond Company has been testing a pre-alpha version of the browser internally and it has also looked for input on the features that will make it into the next version of the browser. The future of IE7 will be dissected at MIX07 between April 30 and May 2 at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. Microsoft has not let many details leak out, but it will discuss the features and layout issues currently under development for the upcoming version of its browser.

In this respect, while Mozilla is already offering alpha versions of Firefox 3.0 under the codename Gran Paradiso, Microsoft has muted all details concerning IE8. However, among the innovations presented at Microsoft TechFest 2007, apc reported one that has the potential to be the first taste of Internet Explorer 8.

Web Assistant is a project that has been cooking in Microsoft's labs, and it could be integrated in the next version of the company's browser. Web Assistant is designed to work in concert with a browser in order to deliver contextual information to the content viewed by the user on web pages. Via Web Assistant, Microsoft aims to increase search relevance.

To start with, it's not a dog with a wagging tail, or an annoying paper clip pointing out that it looks like you're searching the web. Would you like some help?

No, Microsoft ha finally learned from those mistakes.

In its simplest form, the Web Assistant processes the page you're currently viewing and recognises key words and phrases in the story.

A window pane to the right of the main screen aggregates the most common types of online searches, listing each under a tab -- such as On The Web for a conventional search, In The News for news stories, Images, and Reference (which currently points to Wikipedia).

Clicking any of the highlighted words in the main article automatically fetches up relevant links under each of those tabs, to save you from manually visiting a search engine and entering the text.

It can also go beyond simple search results. When you're looking at a webpage that discusses a movie, Web Assistant will pull up links to trailers in various formats, show positive and negative reviews (i.e. Rotten Tomatoes), and links to Amazon and eBay so you may purchase the DVD.

That much of Web Assistant looks pretty well baked.

More impressive, although still a little rough around the edges, is how the program can use context to ‘disambiguate' searches where a word may have several likely meanings and recognise the particular meaning that you're looking for.

For example, browsing a Web page on African wildlife that mentions the jaguar would ensure that the links called forth in the Web Assistant tabs would be search links, images and the Wikipedia entry for the large jungle cat rather than the car or the Apple operating system.

This obviously calls for a lot of computing smarts taking place behind the scene, and would be assisted if users allowed the PC to anonymously share their usage patterns and results with others to expand the program's base of contextual knowledge.