Google Accelerated Mobile Pages Now Rolling Out to All Supported Search Results

Google Accelerated Mobile Pages Now Rolling Out to All Supported Search Results

Google in February introduced its Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project to reduce load time for mobile webpages. If you’ve noticed some stories with a small ‘lightning’ symbol on it, it means those pages open within a second. Initially, the AMP initiative was limited to only ‘Top Stories’. In August, Google announced that the initiative would make its way to all of Google’s search results.

Google is now rolling out AMP optimised pages for all supported results (including non-news) to users around the world. Google AMP is designed to improve mobile user experience, reducing load times by creating stripped down versions of webpages. Doing so not only saves time and battery life but also cuts data by 10 times.

The rollout doesn’t change the search result, but only shows which sites have pages that can load ‘lightning’ fast. In a blog post by Google Inside Search, the company claims to “have over 600 million AMP documents created by sites such as eBay, Reddit, Shopify, WikiHow, and many more.”

Google has also stressed that the Search engine doesn’t rank pages based on AMP support but adds that mobile users are more likely to click on the AMP link than a non-AMP one. Google’s ranking system does prioritise small load times and page speed, however, Google VP of Engineering David Besbris explained that if there are two identical pages – one mobile friendly and the other AMP-powered – it will show the AMP one.

The announcement on Tuesday is more of a signal to Web developers to ‘AMP’ up their content so that they can hop on to the lightning fast bandwagon.

Internet Now Has 334.6 Million Domain Name Registrations: VeriSign

Internet Now Has 334.6 Million Domain Name Registrations: VeriSign

Nearly 7.9 million domain name registrations were added to the Internet in the second quarter of 2016 globally – a growth rate of 2.4 percent over the first quarter – global domain and internet service provider VeriSign Inc. said on Wednesday.

It brings the total number of domain name registrations to approximately 334.6 million across all top-level domains (TLDs) as of June 30 this year, according to the latest Domain Name Industry Brief.

The .com and .net TLDs experienced aggregate growth in the second quarter of 2016, reaching a combined total of approximately 143.2 million domain name registrations in the domain name base. This represents a 7.3 percent increase year over year.

New .com and .net domain name registrations totalled 8.6 million during the second quarter of 2016. In the second quarter of 2015, new .com and .net domain name registrations totalled 8.7 million.

“During the second quarter of 2016, Verisign’s average daily Domain Name System (DNS) query load was approximately 130 billion queries per day across all TLDs operated by Verisign, with a peak of nearly 179 billion queries,” the company said in a statement.

Quarter over quarter, the daily average query load increased 4.9 percent and the peak decreased by 5.0 percent. Year over year, the daily average query load increased by 17.0 percent and the peak decreased by 1.5 percent.

Taiwan Asks Google to Blur Images Showing New South China Sea Facilities

Taiwan Asks Google to Blur Images Showing New South China Sea Facilities

Taiwan’s defence ministry said on Wednesday it is asking Google to blur satellite images showing what experts say appear to be new military installations on Itu Aba, Taipei’s sole holding in the disputed South China Sea.

The revelation of new military-related construction could raise tensions in the contested waterway, where China’s building of airstrips and other facilities has worried other claimants and the United States.

The images seen on Google Earth show four three-pronged structures sitting in a semi-circle just off the northwestern shoreline of Itu Aba, across from an upgraded airstrip and recently constructed port that can dock 3,000-ton frigates.

“Under the pre-condition of protecting military secrets and security, we have requested Google blur images of important military facilities,” Taiwan Defence Ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said on Wednesday, after local media published the images on Itu Aba.

The United States has urged against the militarisation of the South China Sea, following the rapid land reclamation by China on several disputed reefs through dredging, and building air fields and port facilities.

Taiwan’s defence ministry and coast guard, which directly oversees Itu Aba, said details about the structures are confidential and have not commented on their nature.

Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the request.

Defence experts in Taiwan said that based on the imagery of the structures and their semi-circular layout, the structures were likely related to defence and could be part of an artillery foundation.

“I think definitely it will be for military purposes, but I cannot tell if it is for defending, attacking or monitoring,” said Dustin Wang, a scholar and a former government advisor who has regularly visited Itu Aba.

Wang said given the structures’ location which faces the main seaborne traffic, they may relate to surveillance.

China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei claim parts or all of the South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars in trade passes.

In July, an international court ruled against China in a case brought by the Philippines that rejected China’s claim to a vast swathes of the disputed maritime area. Both China and Taiwan, which China views as a renegade province, vehemently rejected the court ruling.

YouTube Heroes Programme Rewards Users for Moderating the Site

YouTube Heroes Programme Rewards Users for Moderating the Site

YouTube, being the world’s largest video sharing platform, wants to make sure that its users receive the best possible experience. With over a billion accounts from around the world, it is quite difficult for YouTube to solely moderate its own site, which is why the company is announcing a new programme wherein the job to moderate comments and videos now fall into the hands of the viewers. The programme is called YouTube Heroes which comes alongside the recently launched Community section.

Announced on the YouTube Help channel, the Heroes program awards points to viewers based on various deeds performed. Points are awarded by adding captions and subtitles to videos, reporting negative content and responding to other users, among other things.

Collecting enough points will let you unlock different levels, with each level offering new benefits. Unlocking the starting level lets you see the Heroes dashboard where you can connect with other members in the community. The fifth level is the highest (requiring 1000+ points) where the ‘Hero’ will be able to test products before release and can apply for what YouTube calls the Heroes Summit.

YouTube has not been the best when it comes to moderation. Many a times unfavourable comments and negative contents are overseen and the company wants to make sure that doesn’t happen. Trusting users to moderate also frees up the company to work on bringing new updates, features and improvements to its site.

Anyone can apply for the YouTube Heroes programme. Especially those who enjoy the platform and genuinely want to better it. While the programme is a positive step from Google-owned YouTube’s part to moderate the site, one will have to wait and see how users respond to it. Those interested in joining the programme can do so from here.

The recently launched YouTube Community tab allows creators to share photos, text messages, GIFs, and even live videos with their subscribers.

Former Pebble, Essential and WebOS designer joins Google Home team

Image result for Former Pebble, Essential and WebOS designer joins Google Home team

In the leadup to the launch of the Essential company’s first phone, one of its top executives has left for Google.

Liron Damir announced this week on LinkedIn that he joined the Google Home team as its head of user experience, leaving behind the same role over at Android founder Andy Rubin’s startup.

“Definitely took the scenic route, but super excited and proud to be joining Google today to lead the design of Google Home products,” Damir wrote this week.

A Google representative confirmed the hire to CNET but offered no further comment.

Damir has previously served in design roles for the Pebble watch company as well as on the WebOS operating system for HP and LG. He is the third executive to leave Essential in the past two months, with previous departures including its VP of Marketing, Brian Wallace, and its Head of Communications, Andy Fouché.

The Essential Phone, which includes a nearly bezel-free design while running on the Android operating system, is currently only being sold online, with Sprint as the only phone carrier selling it in the US later this summer.

A Year of Alphabet: Great for Google, Less So for Moonshots

Reorganizing itself under the umbrella company Alphabet has done wonders for Google – but less so for a grab bag of eclectic projects ranging from robotic cars to internet-beaming balloons, which are suffering costly growing pains.

A year after Alphabet took shape, Google’s revenue growth has accelerated – an unusual development for a company of its size. That success, however, also underscores Alphabet’s dependence on the fickle business of placing digital ads in core Google products like search, Gmail and YouTube video. As a result, it remains vulnerable to swings in marketing budgets and stiffening competition from another equally ambitious rival, Facebook.

Alphabet was supposed to speed the process of turning offshoot businesses into new technological jackpots. CEO Larry Page predicted that separating these smaller “moonshots” from the massive search-and-advertising business would spur innovation by fostering a more entrepreneurial atmosphere.

That hasn’t happened during Alphabet’s first year.

A Year of Alphabet: Great for Google, Less So for Moonshots

Making the shift
Until Page and fellow Google co-founder Sergey Brin created Alphabet (which turns 1 on Sunday), investors complained that Google was spending too much on high-risk efforts. New Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat, who joined Google in mid-2015, responded by reining in expenses to keep them more in line with revenue growth.

A few months later, Page announced the plan to draw a dividing line between Google and the far-flung forays Alphabet now refers to as “Other Bets.” The mishmash includes smart-thermostat maker Nest; the Fiber project, a high-speed Internet service; and X lab, where the company is building robotic cars and designing the stratospheric balloons designed to beam internet service to remote areas.

Other “Other Bets” include the biotech firm Verily and medical-research firm Calico, which has been studying ways to stop aging. Alphabet also runs funds investing in startups and mid-sized companies.

Page argued that fencing off Other Bets would make Google “even better through greater focus.”

Core successes
That part of Page’s vision appears to be panning out. After subtracting ad commissions, Alphabet’s second-quarter revenue jumped 22 percent from the previous year to $17.5 billion (roughly Rs. 1,16,396 crores). It was the best performance in four years, adjusted for changes in currency exchange rates, says RBC analyst Mark Mahaney. Alphabet shares rose 25 percent over the past year, easily outpacing major market indexes.

“Folks will be hard pressed to say that Alphabet hasn’t been a success,” S&P Global Market Intelligence analyst Scott Kessler says.

Alphabet Inc. declined to comment on its first-year performance. But Sundar Pichai, who became Google’s CEO in the restructuring, told investors in July, “There is an amazing energy right now.”

Among other things, Google has been making strides in the still-nascent field of artificial intelligence, hoping to create more convenient services that attract even more eyeballs for its advertisers.

Stalled bets
But the demand for financial discipline and accountability appears to have taken a toll on Other Bets, which lose billions of dollars a year. Key leaders have defected from Alphabet’s high-profile self-driving car project and its Nest line of internet-connected devices. Alphabet also has scaled back plans to expand its Fiber service to dozens of US cities.

Creating a holding company also was supposed to make it easier to diversify through major acquisitions. But Alphabet’s biggest deal so far has been the $625 million purchase of a business software maker, Apigee Corp., which had annual revenue of just $92 million.

Alphabet could make a much bigger splash if buys Twitter, as recent reports say it is considering. Twitter would give Alphabet a popular publishing outlet to monitor trends, mine data and sell even more ads. Alphabet declined to discuss whether it’s mulling a bid, which would be expensive; Twitter might fetch between $20 and $30 billion, despite its problems with user growth and online harassment.

Looking beyond
Google is doing so well that investors aren’t fixating on the losses with Other Bets, Kessler says.

Only three Bets – Nest, Fiber and Verily – are generating even a smidgen of revenue. In nine months, the Other Bets companies have lost a combined $2.6 billion on revenue of $410 million. Another big loss is expected in the July-September quarter; the company reports results on Oct. 27.

BGC analyst Colin Gillis still sees the gamble as prudent and expects at least one of the projects will come up with a breakthrough that lessens Alphabet’s dependence on Google.

Optimism is fine as Google keeps growing at a robust rate. But Wall Street will likely ratchet up the pressure if the company falters and nothing emerges from Other Bets to help pick up the slack.

WannaCry Update: Microsoft Pushes a “Geneva Convention” to Thwart Cyberattacks

A screenshot of the WannaCry ransomware is a predominantly red window with several smaller windows with instructions for payment and two countdown clocks

As the WannaCry ransomware exploit spreads across 150 countries and over 200,000 machines blame is spreading wildly too. And Microsoft has used cybersecurity’s latest headline-grabbing moment to call for a “Digital Geneva Convention” to limit and defang future cyberattacks.

Redmond has also received some share of the blame. Although Microsoft released a security patch in March that closes the “WannaCry”/“WannaCrypt” hole, unsupported versions of Windows including the still broadly popular Windows XP were left vulnerable till last Friday, when it issued a belated patch for XP.

On the other hand, says company president Brad Smith in a blog post over the weekend, the WannaCrypt exploit drew on vulnerabilities the NSA stockpiled but did not publicize or even report covertly to Redmond. Instead, hackers stole those vulnerabilities from NSA and reportedly used them to make WannaCry.

In addition to blaming the spooks, IT departments have also been rapped for being slow to respond to patched vulnerabilities like Microsoft’s Security Bulletin from March.

Yet above the entire chorus of blame, Microsoft is also promoting clearer cybersecurity expectations and responsibilities for companies and governments.

It’s time, Smith told this year’s RSA 2017 conference, to take a page from the atomic age.

“What the world needs is a new independent organization, a bit like the International Atomic Energy Agency that has addressed nuclear nonproliferation for decades,” Smith said in February. “We need an agency that has the international credibility not only to observe what’s happening, but to call the question and even identify the attackers when nation-state attacks happen. That is the only way that governments will come to recognize that this is not a program that will continue to pay off.”

“What we need now is a Digital Geneva Convention,” Smith said. “We need a convention that will call on the world’s governments to pledge that they will not engage in cyberattacks on the private sector, that they will not target civilian infrastructure, whether it’s of the electrical or the economic or the political variety. We need governments to pledge that, instead, they will work with the private sector to respond to vulnerabilities, that they will not stockpile vulnerabilities, and they will take additional measures.”

Hans Klein, associate professor at Georgia Tech’s School of Public Policy, says Microsoft is taking some risk in being as pro-active as they are in the current ransomware crisis.

“In some ways it’s a daring move by Microsoft,” Klein says. “It opens up the question of global regulation of companies like Microsoft. … If we start talking about global public policy, and Geneva Conventions and industry agreements, suddenly it might not just be the governments that are being asked to behave better—and possibly with sanctions backing that up. The companies might be asked or required to behave better too. And that might not be a bad thing.”

For instance, Klein says, what if Windows XP (whose support Microsoft officially cut off in April 2014) is so broadly adopted around the world that governments begin requiring Microsoft to continue supporting XP regardless of its profitability or un-profitability for the company? What if, in other words, Windows XP has become something closer to a public utility?

“When it happened, I thought it was pretty noteworthy that a company could declare that it would no longer support a product like Windows XP,” Klein says. “Apparently there was some limited debate [in 2014] but a little less than I expected. But now WannaCry has hit, and [the XP debate] might come back. When the hospitals are getting hit hard, maybe there’s a social and public responsibility for Microsoft.”

As this story was going to press, security researchers at Heimdal Security reported a new variant of the WannaCry/WannaCrypt ransomware that did not contain the “kill switch” that had hobbled previous versions of the exploit.

So any hopes for a quick end to the current ransomware crisis have at least temporarily been quashed. All the more reason, perhaps, for Redmond to think big.

AT&T Wants to Make Every Telephone Pole an Ultra-Fast Wireless Hotspot

AT&T Wants to Make Every Telephone Pole an Ultra-Fast Wireless Hotspot

AT&T says it plans to start testing a technology next year that could ultimately blanket the country in ultra-fast wireless Internet – without the need for expensive cell towers.

The project, known as AirGig, promises speeds that are many hundreds of times faster than what consumers currently get with their mobile data connections. And it stands to be a lot cheaper to deploy, because AT&T’s new solution piggybacks on infrastructure that’s decades old: Electricity lines.

AirGig doesn’t transmit Internet signals through the power cables themselves. But by placing small, inexpensive antennas on top of utility poles, AT&T can create a string of access points. This new kind of Internet “cable” follows the path of the electricity lines as they wind their way through dense urban areas and hard-to-reach rural regions alike.

Building out Internet networks today is pricey. It often involves digging up streets to lay down cabling, or stringing the wires along utility poles. But as we’ve written before, advances in wireless technology are making it possible to do with airwaves what you could previously only accomplish with expensive fiber optic lines.

To make AirGig a reality, AT&T would still need to make deals with utility companies to let the wireless carrier install its antennas on their poles. But AT&T seems confident utilities would find the technology attractive, too. It says the AirGig antennas may make their power networks smarter, giving utility operators more information about the health of their infrastructure and alerting them to problems like downed lines or fallen trees.

Google, Microsoft, Yahoo Will Block Indian Gender-Selection Ads

Google, Microsoft, Yahoo Will Block Indian Gender-Selection Ads

Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have agreed to block ads for Indian services that help determine a baby’s sex before birth, adhering to laws intended to address one of the world’s worst gender imbalances.

All three companies pledged to honour bans on the promotion of sexual-determination tests and related products, the health ministry told India’s Supreme Court on Monday. The court was hearing a case that sought the abolition of all content on search engines that promote such services.

India’s highest court this year reproached the search giants for disregarding domestic regulations, and warned them to abide by the law or cease operations in the country. But the trio of companies had said sweeping bans on offending key-words would also block non-promotional content such as research reports and news articles. The health ministry didn’t say during Monday’s testimony how the companies intended to effect the ban.

Female foeticide and infanticide are serious issues in India, where there were 943 females per 1,000 males according to the last nationwide census in 2011. Conducting, selling and advertising fetal sex-selection services was made a punishable offense in 1994, thus outlawing sex-determination and abortions. Yet thousands of female foetuses are aborted secretly every year in clinics across local communities with a strong preference for sons.

Some parents prefer sons because they’re considered more reliable bread-winners and better able to carry on the family name. Male children are known to get better nutrition and education and a 2015 United Nations report said India had one of the world’s most skewed sex ratios in the under-five age group. The UN added that 100 girls die by the age of five, compared with 93 boys.

Google said it has taken action to prevent searches and advertising to comply with local laws. That includes disabling auto-complete predictions for relevant terms on its site and showing a warning that tells users pre-natal gender screening or testing is illegal in India.

Yahoo said in an email the company can’t comment because the matter is subjudice. Microsoft didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Chinese Billionaire's Son Purchases Eight iPhone 7 Smartphones for His Dog

Chinese Billionaire's Son Purchases Eight iPhone 7 Smartphones for His Dog

In today’s weird news, a Chinese billionaire’s son purchased eight iPhone 7 smartphones. But that’s not the weird part. The iPhone 7 smartphones were purchased for the son’s dog. You may need a moment to digest what you just read, but the story is fantastically true.

Wang Sicong is the son of Wang Jialin, a Chinese businessman whose net worth is over $30 billion (roughly Rs. 2,01,073 crores). The son bought his dog Coco eight iPhone 7s, according to a post on the dog’s account on Weibo. Yes, the dog has his own Weibo account too – and, it’s verified. The iPhone 7 in China is priced between CNY 6,388 and 7,988 (roughly Rs. 64,210 to Rs. 80,000), which means Sicong spent upwards of CNY 51,071 (roughly Rs. 5,13,000). For the son of a businessman worth $30 billion, that price would not pinch too much.

While Apple fans in China started lining up outside the Apple Store on Friday, Sicong easily managed to get eight of the latest devices from Apple only to give it to his beloved dog. The dog, of course, is seen happily posing with his new collection.

This isn’t the first time Wang Sicong’s dog has received such spotlight. In May 2015, Sicong purchased two Apple Watch Editions for his dog (named Wang Ke Chi Bi), which the dog flaunted on his two front paws. In fact, the Apple Watch Edition models were a lot pricier compared to the iPhone 7, costing somewhere between $10,000 (roughly Rs. 6,40,000) and $17,000 (roughly Rs. 11,00,000) each.