Category Archives: google

An internet monopoly?: Google’s products scrutinised | Feature | Cyberculture

Google logoGoogle’s recent I/O conference revealed a number of new strategies, consolidations and initiatives, but is the search giant’s vision exceeding its capability?

A wide range of services

Google Apps
There are some big names and brands in their own right under Google’s umbrella, including YouTube.

The number of plates Google have spinning is bafflingly vast, offering over 30 products through their main site and numerous first-party apps through their own android operating system for smartphones and tablets.

‘Search’, where it all began, is currently the top ranked site for traffic in the world (according to rankings.com), followed by YouTube, which Google bought back in 2006 for $1.65billion, and is a topic of popular news almost daily.

The rise and rise of Google

The company’s philosophy states its mission is to “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Reading that out of context you could be forgiven for mistaking it for the motto of Wikipedia (which, coincidentally, is more related to the fact that the site is to provide information and not argue value judgements), but Google’s approach is far more widespread thanks to its targeted approach to every other internet-driven product on the market.

Though Google has created many of its biggest success stories, such as ‘Maps’ and ‘Gmail’, other products were acquired through the 2000s, such as Picasa and YouTube. Arguably only YouTube truly holds its own against the might of its parent company to have its own identity, partly because of how the business is run (as a subsidiary company), but most interactions surfers have with Google are with ‘Google’ prefixed products.

New-look Maps

Google Maps Beta
The new interface makes it quicker to find your house than ever before.

A redesign of the ‘Maps’ product was the most impressive innovation to be announced this year, using a vector-based interface to shrink loading times and improve accuracy.

Playing around on the beta version, the new interface is slick and effective, offering more transport options than before. Loading is undeniably snappier and the simplicity of the presentation helps things not look cluttered even in built up areas.

There are bugs to be ironed out, but it seems like a solid step forward which offers consumers what they had before quicker and more into the package as well.

One for all and all for plus

The company insists that ‘it’s best to do one thing really well’ and despite the diversification that is still true – search is clearly the strongest part of any one of their products, whether it’s tracking down a two-year-old email or picking out a restaurant you half remember from 2008.

Convergence is happening in all forms of media and the real drive for Google this year seems to be to unite their products, most likely under the banner of Google +.

The social media sharing platform has been steadily growing momentum through the past few years, and a recent tune up to the Hangouts feature has made the technology far more accessible (though not necessarily more popular).

The consistency and familiarity is something which will solve a lot of the companies brand loyalty in the long run, but the short and harsh truth is that change is hard for most people.

With nothing to compel them to switch, most users will continue with the messaging app they are familiar with, whether that is Facebook Messenger, iMessage or a third-party compiler like What’s App.

The writing’s on the cloud

Can the futuristic technology really deliver?
Can the futuristic technology really deliver?

The long-term gain may prove to be enough, but there needs to be imagination-capturing innovations such as the company’s fancy, though slightly unbelievable, ‘Glass’ product to keep people coming back to them for more than just ‘googling’ something.

In a way the company is a victim of its own success, being so synonymous with internet searching makes it difficult to really make its mark in other areas. This is despite the infrastructure of many other aspects of the business, such as Google Docs or Blogger, being more than up to their respective tasks.

Plus (pun not intended), there is scope within the ‘Labs’ area of development, but overall the company would do well to not spread their net too thinly and find holes starting to develop.

The power of brand

The operating system reportedly has a staggering 75% market share, thanks to its incorporation in a number of different brand's devices.
The operating system reportedly has a staggering 75% market share, thanks to its incorporation in a number of different brand’s devices.

Android is where the opportunity lies over the next few days, ironically because it has its own brand separate to Google, so consumers can feel more of a brand affinity than with the plain, cold image of a multi-national.

In-roads are being made in areas such as business, where the company is powering more and more companies from behind the scenes, but the ‘cool’ factor is still something which is clearly owned by the likes of Apple.

In short – Google is here to stay, but what it means to ‘google’ something might need to diversify to let the brand continue to make progress overall, rather than just in the more flexible, innovative and smaller-scale aspects of the business.

James Michael Parry

Advertisements

Censorship: Protecting the public or hiding the truth?


Film and television have always been subject to some sort of censorship, even at the most basic level, shows or films regarded as too violent, sexual or controversial have been banned. In video games too, censorship is a big issue, with Mortal Kombat being the victim of a media storm in the 90s for its violent finishing moves.

In the age of 24/7 entertainment and relentless information exchange, is it still right for companies to censor information? When you mention censorship, you might think of the limits on the Chinese version of Google or the propaganda of Nazi Germany, but in reality it goes on without the general public even realising.

The most recent example which I noticed was the broadcast of an episode of [Scrubs] on E4. The episode seemed innocent enough, 6 o’clock on a Tuesday evening, but as I watched, I noticed a few things that just weren’t quite right. Dialogue was cut short, suggestive lingering camera shots removed and the shows signature fantasy moments bizarrely tame. The reason: censorship. The network, for whatever reason, had taken out the comedy’s ‘edgier’ moments, leaving the show a shadow of it’s former self.

There are watershed issues to consider of course, and the concept itself (which essentially forbids the broadcast of illicit material until after 9pm) is important to protect the ‘innocence’ of children etc. But the real worry is that many of the omissions were nothing more outrageous than you might see on your typical episode of Eastenders, leading us to conclude that either the network is being over-cautious, or deliberately toning-down to appeal to their viewers.

Surely with the show available on DVD, they must know that many fans of the show will have a series or two, so may have watched the show before, making these omissions obvious. Obviously to those who have never seen the show before will be none the wiser, but it is still a concern.

This is just one example of the negative effects of censorship. There are claims long-term exposure to violence on television causes an increased risk of violence in the real world, but there is little evidence to substantiate that this affects more then a sever minority.

Back in 2000, the BBC reported on a study called ‘Making sense of Censorship’, which concluded that four out of five people would rather watch un-edited versions of film and television, and judge for themselves what not to watch.

The poll also raised the concern of children’s viewing, with 98% of adults saying they were responsible for deciding what their children should and should not watch. Interestingly, almost two thirds of people were more worried about censorship on the internet, an issue which has still not been significantly tackled by authorities. At the time the BBC spoke to Nick Jones, head of film programming for Channel 4 and FilmFour:

“This puts the emphasis on facts rather than pre-conceived myths, It shows middle England is more informed and wants to make its own choices about what they watch – based on information and not the intervention of a ‘nanny state’ It is now time to take a hard look at confused legislation that assumes there is such a thing as ‘the moral majority'” (Jones 2000)

There was controversy last year in the wake of Heath Ledger‘s death, when there were calls to omit the scene in ‘The Dark Knight’ which showed Ledger as the Joker in a body bag.

In 1995 Simon Birch wrote a report which discusses why censorship should be stopped. He concluded that the system is not working and that there are discrepancies which mean the public is being mis-informed:

“Sooner or later they will have to amend a system which allows more explicit detail of real sexual peccadilloes through the written media than it allows the viewing public to see within a fictional context.” (Birch 1995)

In the end, if the public objects to how something is being done, the government is forced to act to change it, but if people do not even know it is going on in the first place, then we may begin to see an ever-increasing problem in years to come.