Setting the Record Straight: Why Bing’s Rebuttal Makes No Sense

Yesterday Google kicked off the mother of all pissing contests by saying MS is copying their search results. You might as well have told them that santa doesn’t exist. I read google’s post and mulled it over and frankly it makes a lot of sense. Today the “bing team” (whoever that is) posted the rebuttal by “Yusuf Mehdi, Senior Vice President, Online Services Division”. I read that and… I don’t think it adds up.

So Yusuf claim is that Google engaged in click fraud. The problem here is you have to then believe that Bing is either so badly tuned it relies on the users to direct it to relevant results (which are impossible to assess before actually visiting the page) or you have to buy into the idea that bing uses google as the last ditch.

I think the explaination is somewhere in the middle. I think both sides have points. And I really think that I’m going to stick with google.

Google is smart. If bing were really querying google, google would have noticed. Maybe they don’t read their referral log, but surely on web analytics someone would have noticed a metric ton of queries coming from somewhere inside microsoft. I believe MS when they say they aren’t querying google. But this also means there’s a much bigger problem with Bing. Yusuf also says google engaged in click fraud. This is only click fraud by some weird definition of click fraud where the pages don’t actually link to each other. Conventional, or traditional click fraud requires trusted pages to link to each other to improve their rank, then the users click around each page going to each others page to improve the search results. What google did was create what basically amounted to an orphan, a page no-one would ever link to nor link from, and click on it 100 times, and they did it within google.

Does bing copy search results? Not in the sense that they query google for each question you ask. However what bing does watch is what you’re typing and what you click on. This is the only possible explanation for how they got the google search results. Now, google said they got here by installing Windows, installing IE8 and accepting the defaults (which would include the bing bar). Lets assume that someone took the time to read the end user license agreement (EULA). What’s the text of this? In the privacy section it says:

Suggested Sites is an online experience designed to show you which websites you visit most, and to provide you with suggestions of other websites you might be interested in visiting. When you turn on Suggested Sites, your web browsing history is automatically and periodically sent to Microsoft, where it is saved and compared to a frequently updated list of websites that are similar to ones you visit often. Suggested Sites also turns on automatic background updating for Web Slices and feeds so that you can receive up-to-date suggestions in both Suggested Sites and the Suggested Sites Web Slice.

You can choose to pause or stop the Suggested Sites feature from sending your web browsing history to Microsoft at any time. You can also delete individual entries from your history at any time. Deleted entries will not be used to provide you suggestions for other websites, although they will be retained by Microsoft for a period of time to help improve our products and services, including this feature. Any websites you visit while InPrivate Browsing is active will not be sent to Microsoft.

When Suggested Sites is turned on, the addresses of websites you visit are sent to Microsoft, together with standard computer information. To help protect your privacy, the information is encrypted when sent to Microsoft. Information associated with the web address, such as search terms or data you entered in forms might be included. For example, if you visited the Microsoft.com search website at http://search.microsoft.com and entered “Seattle” as the search term, the full address http://search.microsoft.com/results.aspx?q=Seattle&qsc0=0&FORM=QBMH1&mkt=en-US will be sent. Address strings might unintentionally contain personal information, but this information, like the other information sent, is not used to identify, contact or target advertising to you. In addition, Microsoft filters address strings to try to remove personal information where possible.

Statistics about your usage of Suggested Sites will also be sent to Microsoft such as the time that websites were visited, which website referred you, and how you got there (e.g., by clicking a link or one of your Favorites). A unique identifier generated by Internet Explorer is also sent. The unique identifier is a randomly generated number that does not contain any personal information and is not used to identify you. If you delete your browsing history or if you turn Suggested Sites off and back on again, a new unique identifier will be created. There is no way to correlate an old unique identifier with a new one. This information, along with the website addresses and past history, will be used to personalize your experience, as well as improve the quality of our products and services.

That’s pretty straight forward to me. I think the google team overstated the problem, but I think it really cast some light on what microsoft is doing, how they’re doing it and how their moral compass works collecting this information from you.

I’ll stick to google.

Advertisements

“failed to retrieve account information”

If you’re getting “failed to retrieve account information” after getting a new android phone, or if you’re like me and getting it after you got your new Samsung Vibrant/Galaxy/Fascinate whatever back from the company after the update bricked it, then you’re not alone. I played with it quite a bit to try to figure out why the gallery could no longer post videos or photos. I did a bunch of factory resets and called TMobile. Finally I got down and dirty with the thing and figured it out.

Do a factory reset (only way to fix it, sorry), then if you have the update to at least Android 2.1.1, you’ll go back to your home screen and not the “sign in or sign up” screen. Let the media scanner run. Now the first thing you need to do before you do anything else
(including adding wifi configs or any other account) – click on market. You’ll be taken to the “sign up or sign in” screen. Choose sign in. You’ll add your google account per usual and market will close.

That’s it, this fixes your google account for posting videos and photos.

Steve Jobs on Android

truly then has the android come into it’s own when Apple takes a note. Much in the same way Microsoft shot themselves in the foot with free press, Jobs really did the wrong thing by bringing attention to it.

Two points – The UI. I’m not worried about the UI. Microsoft phones have had a different UI for each release and it hasn’t stopped them. Blackberry too, for the most part, has had a new UI release for each phone, although they at least try to keep a standard look and feel for where things are even if the icons are different. Why then is the UI important? Its what people expect to see for making a phone stand out. You go into a cellphone store and they have running demo phones just so that you can mess with the UI. More on the point, the Google App Store doesn’t hurt anyone over the UI experience because the user will buy something they’re comfortable with UI wise while getting access to the app store. Apps which won’t run on your device (IE: 2.2 apps) don’t get presented. But this is an argument against Apple – who’s UI is absolutely the same for each device. It’s all their eggs in one basket – either you really like the UI and you’ll purchase a phone with that look and feel, or you hate the UI and you’ll shop elsewhere. My take on this argument is that it was a straw man from the beginning. Apple doesn’t let other companies do integration, so then when Jobs says “The user has to do the integration on android” – he’s being dishonest. The user can shop around for an android which fits their UI expectations – but if the user buys an apple phone and wants to change the UI, s/he really does have to do the UI integration. Incidentally the app “homeswitcher” in the market will let you do all that pesky UI integration with one click. This seems to be a popular talking point, enough that I felt a need to discuss it earlier.

The store(s) – I think the rant here was because Apple is afraid that developers will go for greener pastures, and while it was only Apple and Google competing, Apple only needed to sweeten the deal to keep developers in the apple store. There’s nothing to keep the existing developers on one platform or another. The Angry Birds guy is a good example of this – he’s well entrenched in the apple store and he’s probably made all the sales he’s ever going to make from that application. He’s got every reason to move despite less favorable terms elsewhere because he’s already hit market saturation unless there’s new users on the device. However with the apple ipad failing to offer up any new experience aside of being a “larger iphone” (and not that large at that), it’ll simply fail to entice people to purchase software again. There’s really no new users (unless people are somehow swayed by Jobs’s speech). What Apple is worried about is that new developers will see the competition from the other stores and the terms which are basically bidding wars and maybe they’ll get the next Killer App out on the android before it comes to the IOS platform. Not every indy developer is going to get titles like gameloft, who arguably don’t need the app store because they’re getting promotional tie-ins. However the new developers are going to look at the google store, the apple store, the samsung store, the verizon store and the at&t store and they’ll probably write off apple immediately. Why? Because they can code for one platform (android 2.1, android 2.2, etc) and pick which store is giving them the best terms at the moment. Is the verizon store likely to be open to t-mobile customers? Maybe. The Samsung store absolutely is open across carriers. If Verizon is serious about running a music/video/games store, they’ll make the verizon store app available in the marketplace.

Apple, at this point, is now going through the gentrification process. If I were Jobs, I would be looking for a new look and feel for IOS to inject some fresh life into the platform.

Oracle Sues Google – Software as a Tollbooth

I originally wrote this as a mail to my boss encouraging him to get off of java and start looking at HTML 5. The technical parts are glossed over but explained enough to make the point. I republished it here because I think it will generate discussion, especially among the SAP people, etc.

http://news.cnet.com/8301-30684_3-20013546-265.html <- this is tough to get your head around the “why” until you consider how the android (and thus the cutting edge of java) works.

Oracle has decided to become a patent troll as far as Java is concerned. Oracle’s moving towards an oracle box as a literal thing – and I think the trend here is for companies to get away from IP (intellectual property) because of how badly MP3s and whatnot have eroded case law. The music industry has problems prosecuting pirates, the movie industry has problems prosecuting pirates, and as we move into the brave new cloud world, I think software companies will go the same way. The mainframe is dead. Long live the mainframe.

So we’re back to the pressed CD, the pressed DVD (how terrible is it we’re advertising “includes digital copy” on the media, Disney), and now Oracle is making Oracle Boxes and suing google using phones as a fathom of piracy. I would say “oh but everything is going to be a VM now” makes sense for abandoning hardware and virtualizing the stack except that an OS is a complicated thing, and a company which makes databases isn’t into the business of making SCSI card drivers. Drivers aren’t Oracles game and I don’t think this is particularly about Java and I think it’s much more about virtual machine technology. Google is the cloud and frankly it’s a better cloud than the VMWare-ish cloud of pretending to be hardware. If you’re looking to make a literal box you install on your network and become a toll booth of sorts, it would behoove you to attack the cloud. Oracle is going to take a shot at google over how virtual machines work.

Where google ran afoul of Sun and Oracle is that each android runs a JVM for each process on the box, so any process has extremely strict controls of what it can and cannot do to the phone (Linux 2.6.26). Sun tried to patent “the network is the computer” and android is the realization of that – each phone can send a JVM-generated work-unit back to google to do Big Work and because it’s a JVM, it doesn’t really care where it runs or how many resources it has. Oracles game seems to be selling you an oracle box as a box, or selling you oracle-as-a-cloud, but either way you’re installing an oracle connector and talking to a big anonymous thing rather than installing oracle as a service somewhere. You can send your work to your oracle-box or you can send your work to oracle, but either way you’re paying the toll to use it. Google’s doing the same thing – but they hide their subscription charges in the carriers bill. Oracle looks at this and says “If we’re going to be the turnpike of the database world, lets try to become the turnpike of the cloud!”

The fallout from this is that Java is now going to have the albatross that Oracle can cry foul on how you use it. What makes me fairly sure of this whole thing is that Apple does a lot of the same with the iphone, except for sharing the work units. It’s pretty obvious that since the iphone runs IOS but keeps it’s work-units to itself, it’s not running afoul of any VM patents in any form. Now would be a good time to start pushing HTML 5 for what we do. Runs in IIS! Doesn’t need Apache/Tomcat on Windows! Won’t be sued into oblivion!

The linux community is pointing out that Google very obviously built their JVM from the ground up and it therefor doesn’t infringe.

Comcast DNS

In case anyone hasn’t figured it out yet, comcast does really horrible stuff with DNS. What finally broke the camels back was that instead of returning DNS errors, comcast started returning pages with redirects to their search page. This meant any time comcast couldn’t find something or it took too long they would redirect you. The problem is that if you’re, say, trying to resolve your buddy in japan, comcast will send you to the searchlight page about half the time and send you to his PC about half the time.

I know what you’re saying – “why not just do it by IP?”

Well, for all you Modern Warfare 2 players, your host resolution to the next xbox is done by DNS. Situations where you need to actually talk to someone else on another ISP and you have to resolve their name only worked about half the time also. Comcast could fix it by having actual DNS servers which didn’t molest your packets, but I decided to give third party DNS a try.

Folks, it used to take me upwards of three seconds to resolve stuff during peak hours on comcast. I put Google’s DNS in my router configuration and stuff connects almost instantly. More on the point it gives legitimate DNS errors which makes my at home network configs real simple and it resolves japan really nicely.

People are probably going to grouse “but then google is looking over your shoulder!” but how is this any different from punching a term into google search and connecting to something versus just going there directly? More on the point the speed is worth it.

Now watch comcast filter DNS queries to external servers next week.

MEEGO ANDROID GOOGLE WOLFRAPE

Meego finally produced something, but I can’t help but wonder how much of this was borrowed from android. For one, it only runs on wolfram processors and things which look like wolfram processors (ARM), for two it looks exactly like android.

The problem, of course, is that android is basically open source. It has OSS bits and pieces, there’s an SDK, it speaks java, and by downloading the SDK you can create bundles which install whatever android version you want to your phone.

Now, not being familiar with meego, anyone want to comment how much overlap there is here?