<IT WORLD> Google clicks on compromise
By Martin J Young
HUA HIN - Google have been getting themselves in hot water again with media
publications by allowing readers to bypass the subscription pages of some
online news companies.
Readers found that if they searched for articles via Google News they would be
linked directly to the story without being asked for a subscription. Naturally
this has angered publishers, who have accused Google of profiting from
journalism by generating advertising revenue from linking readers to their news
One of the biggest anti-Google advocates is media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who
claims that paying for content online is right and aggregators such as Google
who profit from the work of others, such as his Newscorp, is wrong. Google's
response was a typical
one: "Where does most of your traffic come from?"
Murdoch has repeatedly threatened to remove all content generated by his media
empire from Google and has even hinted at a partnership with rivals Microsoft.
Any tech-savvy webmaster will already know that you can stop Google (or any
search engine) "spidering" for content - that is, using software that searches
a website for material - with a simple text file called "robots" placed on the
concerned web server.
The search giant has bowed to pressure though by coming to a compromise and
introducing a "First Click Free" scheme, whereby participating content
providers can present a subscription page to users who frequently click through
via Google. The publisher can set the amount of free clicks, up to five per
day, that a user can access until hit with the "pay up page".
This is a welcome move for subscription-only websites that get a lot of traffic
from Google News and are concerned about those taking advantage of the loophole
allowing them to use Google to access subscription-only pages which would
otherwise be unavailable.
Free-content sites are unlikely to be affected unless they want to take
advantage of Google's new service by introducing subscriptions and setting
click-through limits. Most won't and are grateful of the extra traffic anyway
as it results in more page views, more ad impressions, and more revenue for the
publisher - this has been Google's argument all along.
If anything, free-content providers are likely to benefit from the change as
readers will in the future be served up more digital checkpoints demanding
payment from the likes of Newscorp. The nature of the Internet is such that the
majority of users want to read for free so they'll simply hit the back button
on their browser and find an alternative link to a similar article on a free
News publishers are constantly looking for ways to generate revenue in a market
that is seeing print and advertising revenues in decline. Murdoch's ethos is
that people should pay for content whether it is in print or on the Internet,
whereas Google just want to keep those advertising dollars rolling in for
syndicating content better than anyone else. The game is changing and the
battle rages on; this time a compromise has been made but the end result is
likely to be fat-cats getting fatter on both sides.
Another week went by and another media frenzy scaremongering over Microsoft's
Windows 7 has hit the Internet. This time it was a "black screen of death", an
unfortunate greeting for some Windows users after they have logged into their
computers. One false statement by British software company Prevx caused digital
pandemonium as tech websites flaunted headlines such as "Black screen woes
could affect millions". The reality was that the software company got it wrong
by blaming Microsoft's security updates as the cause of the digital darkness.
The story spread across the net and the Microsoft-bashing started in earnest.
Prevx has since formally apologized to Microsoft, acknowledging that the black
screen, which may have only affected as few as a thousand machines, was caused
by malware - malicious software created by outside parties. Microsoft has
responded by stating that it has investigated the reports and did not find any
connection between their November security updates and the "system issues" some
The bottom line is that there is malware out there that will cause a black
screen on some systems; Windows Vista and XP are not excluded. This particular
malware was part of the Daonol family of Trojans, so it pays to keep your
system updated with security patches and use a reliable and trusted malware and
spyware scanner and a removal tool or two.
Nintendo had a bumper Thanksgiving holiday week, with the sale of 1.5 million
DS and Wii consoles - 550,000 Wii's were sold in the US alone. The figures
eclipse sales for the entire month of October. The company stated that the
sales figures this year beat its previous record, set in 2002 with the Game Boy
Sony said 440,000 PlayStation3's were shifted over the holiday week, up 16.4%
on the same period last year. Microsoft has yet to reveal any sales figures,
which makes you wonder if the Xbox 360 did as well as its competitors.
Despite the Thanksgiving sales spike, the industry has taken a battering this
year, with console sales struggling to meet last year's figures. Industry
analysts are confident that the Christmas holiday season will provide a much
needed boost and things will begin to pickup in 2010.
The Large Hadron Collider, to the delight of those involved in the vast project
that spans the Swiss and French border, is moving towards full operational
power following its revival from repair and initial run last month.
Particularly relieved is the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN),
which saw its machine, the world's most powerful atom smasher, brake the record
for accelerating beams of particles to the highest energy levels recorded by a
The twin beams were accelerated at an energy level of 1.18 trillion electric
volts (TeV). Even this is still a long way off the 7 TeV required to accelerate
them to 99.99% of the speed of light.
A power failure this week caused another bump in the proceedings of what some
claim is the world's most complex machine, but systems were restored within
hours and no damage was done.
The real physics is set to begin next year when scientists start actually
colliding protons, in an attempt to produce sub-atomic particles and answer the
questions about the creation of life, the universe and everything; however
galaxy hitchhikers already know that it is 42!
Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.