Barry Schawrtz reported out in SearcheEngineLand about a recent Court decision that held that Google Is Not Liable For Bad Products Sold Through AdWords. Here is a more detailed summary of the case from MediaPost:
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against Google for allegedly displaying fraudulent ringtone ads.
District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose ruled that the federal Communications Decency Act immunizes Google from liability for pay-per-click ads created through the AdWords platform.
“Providing third parties with neutral tools to create Web content is considered to be squarely within the protections of (the law),” Fogel wrote. “Even if a service provider knows that third parties are using such tools to create illegal content, the service’s provider’s failure to intervene is immunized.”
Let me repeat that: “Even if a service provider knows that third parties are using such tools to create illegal content, the service’s provider’s failure to intervene is immunized.” Hello? Since when are accessories to a crime, not culpable?
This outcome pertains directly to the reality that Google has created in Local. The specifics are slightly different in Local but the implication is clear. Think about what it means if this logic were to apply to Local business listings: Google, even if they knew of illegal hijackings of business listings that caused losses to business owners and even if they had not taken action to stop the hijackings, would be immune from any legal responsibility in the matter.
In the current banking debacle, we have re-learned what happens when the fox is allowed to guard the henhouse. The Communications Decency Act seems to create a similar unregulated and wild west situation in Local. If the outcome of this act is to immunize the likes of Google from profiting from illegal activities then we have come to a sorry state, indeed.
In October I wrote an article at SearchEngineland about the continued hijackings due the community edit feature. I blithely advised in the article that business owners should Claim Your Google Local Business Listing Before Someone Else Does! and noted that only by laying claim to your record could you prevent hijacking abuse and potential thefts of your income. But the reality is much worse than that. Hijackings are still occurring, even on claimed listings. Thus we are all vulnerable to theft of services even if we have followed best practices as recommended by Google.
Historically, in our society, there has always been recourse in this type of situation. It appears that in the new age of the Internet, the Community Decency Act and Local Business listings, this may not be the case. Caveat Emptor!
Most Read New Articles in 2008
Here are the 10 articles (who picked 10 as the appropriate number, anyways?) written in 2008 that received the most readership during the past year. Readership and traffic have moved up significantly compared to last year, growing along with the broader interest in Local. My Top 10 most read stories of 2008 were viewed a total of 19206 times compared to 11337 Top 10 viewings in the 2007. Pageviews and visits increased ~107% year over year. As you can see from the numbers on these, the most popular articles, my readership is still a niche.
But Local is a a growing & exciting niche and one where much of the future of the internet lays. On this blog I write to the professionals and aficionados within that niche. That allows me to interact with the many people in the Local space that are forging much of what Local will be. It has been an incredibly fun year meeting and engaging those Localites in person, on the phone and on my blog. To these many folks that have shared their ideas with me and the readers of this blog, sent me visitors and contributed to the local space I say: Thanks for a great year & thanks for helping me understand and learn as much as I have!
Most Read New Articles in 2008 from Previous Years
Articles in the blogosphere often have a very short shelf life. Sometimes, you spend countless hours in research and writing an article and it seems to barely cause a blip in the scheme of things at the time it is published. The 10 Likely Elements of Google’s Local Search Algorithm was one such article. But it manages to find readers 18 months after it was written and it still has relevance. Here are the 5 stories from a time long, long ago that were the most read this year
TomTom, owner of TeleAtlas, has rolled out a new web based (beta) mapping product and announced their 5 millionth user generated edit of the their map data. What does this mean long haul for Google?
Google’s growth over they years has been typically predicated on leveraging internal technology acquired through development (i.e. search) or purchase (i.e. YouTube). Google Maps is an exception in this story of growth as they don’t own the principal underlying mapping technology/data set needed to make it work in Europe and the U.S.
The Local Search Marketing industry is in its infancy. The following interview covers the good, the bad and the reality of SMB Marketing and how far there is still yet to go for SMB’s to take advantage of its power.
Chuck Bruce of Bruce’s Sew Handy, caught my attention when he gave a testimonial for Merchant Circle in the November email newsletter that MC sent out. I was curious if he was for real or just another Merchant Circle marketing fabrication so I gave him a call. In the third week of November, we had an extensive conversation about his market, marketing strategies, his relationship with online local listing services and the tough economic times that he is suddenly confronting. To use one of Chuck’s phrases, he is a stand up guy.
Noa Gertin of Palore has recently completed some interesting research on SMB PPC ad spends. They looked at over 3000 SMBs who advertise online, on different websites, out of which they focused on 300 businesses who also advertised on search engines in the past 5 months. They filtered out nationwide chains and all SMBs with more than one office location and only looked at PPC advertising, not longer term advertising commitments. That not withstanding, the drop is significant.
Their methodology does not allow one to extrapolate all SMB spending in all internet mediums but gives an idea of the rapid contraction in a certain sector of the advertising economy amongst a clientele (the one store operation) that can make these quick decisions. I would love to see a plot comparing these 300 with the other 2700 businesses that were surveyed to see the difference.
Internet usage in general, goes up during disasters. A large number of internet searches quickly follow catastrophes and major world events. Google, for example, reported that searches for news-related sites increased 60 times over normal levels on September 11. The London bombings in July 2005 showed a similar search peak according to the Google Zeitgeist for 2005.
In Google Trends there appears to be similar peaks in maps searches during these crises as well. It is probably safe to infer that there was dramatically increased map usage as well when the catastrophe was location based.
Search: London Map, Paris Map
Search: Madrid Map
The peaks are very short lived, lasting one or the most two days:
Heather Hopkins of Hitwise was kind enough to generate another look at market share of Mapquest & Google for Nov. ’07 thru Oct. ’08. Mapquest’s September jump has not continued. They appear to have plateaued and Google Maps appears to once again be on the rise.
Mapquest has risen on my local radar of late. Their September market share numbers showed a healthy rise against Google Maps with the introduction of their new site. They seem to sincerely care about customer service and the client experience in local. They are rolling out new features to their Mapping product on a regular basis lately.
Mapquest has long held the lead in the maps market place due their early start and their end user loyalty. They have however been experiencing market share declines for a number of quarters as Google Maps has shown a steady ability to take market share in the mapping & local arena and usually Google’s gains came at Mapquest’s expense.
Do you think that Mapquest’s product is competitive with Google Maps? Does their UI work as well as Google’s? Can they provide meaningful competition to the Google juggernaut in Local? Can user engagement hold Google at bay? Does customer service matter in the battle for market share?
I will be interviewing Mark Law, VP of Product Development, Mapquest next week and I am wondering what questions you might like to ask him about Mapquest in their quest for a Local presence.
Andrew Turner of the HighEarthOrbit.com blog, reported on his work developing VoteReport:
an open public reporting system to be used during the 2008 US Election to track the situation as citizens cast their ballots. The simple goal is to make it easy for anyone to send in a report describing the wait time, overall rating and any complications that are impairing their ability to participate in the election. For more information check out http://twittervotereport.com.
The system gathers and maps information from voter reports via a backend that aggregates together Twitter, SMS, voice, iPhone and Android native applications, and even YouTube and presents it in a visually appealing map layout. They also provide a range of feeds in OpenSearch XML, KML, GeoRSS & GeoJSON for others that might use the data on their own maps.
It combines not just deep local data but near real time local data with a map in way that contribute to our understanding of real events on the ground and help us make different decisions in our life. Its a cool use of technology and gives a glimpse of the power maps when combined with social tools and mobile technologies.
I have included an iframe of the map below. If it doesn’t load correctly or loads too slowly, visit their site, http://votereport.us/reports/map to see this product work.
Coverage of my shenanigans vìs-a-vìs Microsoft’s listing in Google Maps has been wider than just the search industry. Regardless, a number of writers have ascribed intentions and feelings to me that seem to drift toward the dramatic and away from reality.
From the Silicon Alley Insider: “An angry small business advocate has his revenge”. and “Mike Blumenthal, who’s been covering the topic obsessively,”. Well obsessive maybe but angry?
From SeoRoundtable: “I guess he got sick of covering the issues and not much being done about stopping it. He decided to do something a bit extreme. He hijacked Microsoft’s listing in Google Maps and made them a Microsoft Escort Service. He also messed around with profiles, here is one example:” To defend my honor, it was Danny that messed around with profiles. I did everything under my public profile and no, it isn’t SBrin. And anyways, “a bit extreme” is roughly akin to sort of pregnant.
I liked Danny’s read on the effort in SEL: Mike Blumenthal has been diligently covering how local listings can be hijacked in Google Maps. He’s also been frustrated that Google doesn’t seem to be fixing the local hijacking problem. Although even the word frustration ascribes an emotion that I don’t actually feel.
I think Hyped.nl in Holland captured it best when he said: “Grapjas maakt van Microsoft een escort service” which translated in Google Maps to: Funny makes Microsoft an escort service. Martijn where are you when I need you ?
For those writers that actually care about my motivations and feelings, it comes from a passion for Local, a desire to know all that I can know. While I do empathize with small business folks, having been one for many years, I really just want local to be all that it can be (is it ok to use that Army clichè here?) and not just another cesspool of illicit blowhard marketing. I think Google has the best chance of taking local to the promised land, but and this is a big but, only if they put integrity of local data at the top of their list.
A bit extreme? Angry? Obsessive? Hrmph! As Curley used to say I resemble that remark!
Ultimately, for me the questions are: Did my “prank”, help or hurt Local? Did I cross some ethical boundary? Let me know what you think!
Google’s Voter Information Tool has gone mobile. From the official Google Blog:
With the U.S. elections less than a week away, voting drives are ramping up. Political parties and non-partisan groups alike are sending out volunteers to encourage citizens to vote on November 4. To make sure these volunteers have the same voter info tools available to them on their phone as on their computer, we’ve now launched a mobile voting locator tool on m.google.com/elections. (Click here to send this to your phone.)
It is nice to see that this tool works on new smartphones as well as on older not-so-smart phones like my ancient Nokia 3650. Good Job Google!