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Google makes $550M strategic investment in Chinese e-commerce firm JD.com

Google has been increasing its presence in China in recent times, and today it has continued that push by agreeing to a strategic partnership with e-commerce firm JD.com which will see Google purchase $550 million of shares in the Chinese firm.

Google has made investments in China, released products there and opened up offices that include an AI hub, but now it is working with JD.com largely outside of China. In a joint release, the companies said they would “collaborate on a range of strategic initiatives, including joint development of retail solutions” in Europe, the U.S. and Southeast Asia.

The goal here is to merge JD.com’s experience and technology in supply chain and logistics — in China, it has opened warehouses that use robots rather than workers — with Google’s customer reach, data and marketing to produce new kinds of online retail.

Initially, that will see the duo team up to offer JD.com products for sale on the Google Shopping platform across the word, but it seems clear that the companies have other collaborations in mind for the future.

JD.com is valued at around $60 billion, based on its NASDAQ share price, and the company has partnerships with the likes of Walmart and it has invested heavily in automated warehouse technology, drones and other ‘next-generation’ retail and logisitics.

The move for a distribution platform like Google to back a service provider like JD.com is interesting since the company, through search and advertising, has relationships with a range of e-commerce firms including JD.com’s arch rival Alibaba.

But it is a sign of the times for Google, which has already developed relationships with JD.com and its biggest backer Tencent, the $500 billion Chinese internet giant. All three companies have backed Go-Jek, the ride-hailing challenger in Southeast Asia, while Tencent and Google previously inked a patent sharing partnership and have co-invested in startups such as Chinese AI startup XtalPi.

Google brings its ARCore technology to China in partnership with Xiaomi

Google is ramping up its efforts to return to China. Earlier this year, the search giant detailed plans to bring its ARCore technology — which enables augmented reality and virtual reality — to phones in China and this week that effort went live with its first partner, Xiaomi.

Initially the technology will be available for Xiaomi’s Mix 2S devices via an app in the Xiaomi App Store, but Google has plans to add more partners in Mainland China over time. Huawei and Samsung are two confirmed names that have signed up to distribute ARCore apps on Chinese soil, Google said previously.

Starting today, #ARCore apps are available on Mix 2S devices from the Xiaomi App Store in China. More partners coming soon → https://t.co/16QoOTgqve pic.twitter.com/lT4TYXrzwF

— Google AR & VR (@GoogleARVR) May 28, 2018

Google’s core services remain blocked in China but ARCore apps are able to work there because the technology itself works on device without the cloud, which means that once apps are downloaded to a phone there’s nothing that China’s internet censors can do to disrupt them.

Rather than software, the main challenge is distribution. The Google Play Store is restricted in China, and in its place China has a fragmented landscape that consists of more than a dozen major third-party Android app stores. That explains why Google has struck deals with the likes of Xiaomi and Huawei, which operate their own app stores which — pre-loaded on their devices — can help Google reach consumers.

ARCore in action

The ARCore strategy for China, while subtle, is part of a sustained push to grow Google’s presence in China. While that hasn’t meant reviving the Google Play Store — despite plenty of speculation in the media — Google has ramped up in other areas.

In recent months, the company has struck a partnership with Tencent, agreed to invest in a number of China-based startups — including biotech-focused XtalPi and live-streaming service Chushou — and announced an AI lab in Beijing. Added to that, Google gained a large tech presence in Taiwan via the completion of its acquisition of a chunk of HTC, and it opened a presence in Shenzhen, the Chinese city known as ‘the Silicon Valley of hardware.’

Finally, it is also hosting its first ‘Demo Day’ program for startups in Asia with an event planned for Shanghai, China, this coming September. Applications to take part in the initiative opened last week.

Google removes ‘Don’t Be Evil’ motto from its Code of Conduct

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To be evil or not to be evil — that is the question, Google.

It seems after years of the tech company’s commitment to its low-key creepy-sounding mantra, “Don’t Be Evil,” Google has removed the phrase from its Code of Conduct.

So I guess that means evil is totally chill now?? Cool. Very cool and not at all concerning, right?

On Friday, Gizmodo noted that “Don’t Be Evil,” which has been part of Google’s Code of Conduct since 2000, was recently removed in either April or May, as shown by the Wayback Machine. 

Digging into the Wayback Machine’s April 21, 2018 archive shows the three-word phrase still present in an earlier Code of Conduct: Read more…

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The new AI-powered Google News app is now available for iOS

Google teased a new version of its News app with AI smarts at its I/O event last week, and today that revamped app landed for iOS and Android devices in 127 countries. The redesigned app replaces the previous Google Play Newsstand app.

The idea is to make finding and consuming news easier than ever, whilst providing an experience that’s customized to each reader and supportive of media publications. The AI element is designed to learn from what you read to help serve you a better selection of content over time, while the app is presented with a clear and clean layout.

Opening the app brings up the tailored ‘For You’ tab which acts as a quick briefing, serving up the top five stories “of the moment” and a tailored selection of opinion articles and longer reads below it.

The next section — ‘Headlines’ — dives more deeply into the latest news, covering global, U.S., business, technology, entertainment, sports, science and health segments. Clicking a story pulls up ‘Full Coverage’ mode, which surfaces a range of content around a topic including editorial and opinion pieces, tweets, videos and a timeline of events.

 

Favorites is a tab that allows customization set by the user — without AI. It works as you’d imagine, letting you mark out preferred topics, news sources and locations to filter your reads. There’s also an option for saved searches and stories which can be quickly summoned.

The final section is ‘Newsstand’ which, as the name suggests aggregates media. Google said last week that it plans to offer over 1,0000 magazine titles you can follow by tapping a star icon or subscribing to. It currently looks a little sparse without specific magazine titles, but we expect that’ll come soon.

As part of that, another feature coming soon is “Subscribe with Google, which lets publications offer subscription-based content. The process of subscribing will use a user’s Google account, and the payment information they already have on file. Then, the paid content becomes available across Google platforms, including Google News, Google Search and publishers’ own websites.

How did Thumbtack win the on-demand services market?

Earlier today, the services marketplace Thumbtack held a small conference for 300 of its best gig economy workers at an event space in San Francisco.

For the nearly ten-year-old company the event was designed to introduce some new features and a redesign of its brand that had softly launched earlier in the week. On hand, in addition to the services professionals who’d paid their way from locations across the U.S. were the company’s top executives.

It’s the latest step in the long journey that Thumbtack took to become one of the last companies standing with a consumer facing marketplace for services.

Back in 2008, as the global financial crisis was only just beginning to tear at the fabric of the U.S. economy, entrepreneurs at companies like Thumbtack andTaskRabbit were already hard at work on potential patches.

This was the beginning of what’s now known as the gig economy. In addition to Thumbtack and TaskRabbit, young companies like Handy, Zaarly, and several others — all began by trying to build better marketplaces for buyers and sellers of services. Their timing, it turns out, was prescient.

In snowy Boston during the winter of 2008, Kevin Busque and his wife Leah were building RunMyErrand, the marketplace service that would become TaskRabbit, as a way to avoid schlepping through snow to pick up dog food .

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Marco Zappacosta, a young entrepreneur whose parents were the founders of Logitech, and a crew of co-founders including were building Thumbtack, a professional services marketplace from a home office they shared.

As these entrepreneurs built their businesses in northern California (amid the early years of a technology renaissance fostered by patrons made rich from returns on investments in companies like Google and Salesforce.com), the rest of America was stumbling.

In the two years between 2008 and 2010 the unemployment rate in America doubled, rising from 5% to 10%. Professional services workers were hit especially hard as banks, insurance companies, realtors, contractors, developers and retailers all retrenched — laying off staff as the economy collapsed under the weight of terrible loans and a speculative real estate market.

Things weren’t easy for Thumbtack’s founders at the outset in the days before its $1.3 billion valuation and last hundred plus million dollar round of funding. “One of the things that really struck us about the team, was just how lean they were. At the time they were operating out of a house, they were still cooking meals together,” said Cyan Banister, one of the company’s earliest investors and a partner at the multi-billion dollar venture firm, Founders Fund.

“The only thing they really ever spent money on, was food… It was one of these things where they weren’t extravagant, they were extremely purposeful about every dollar that they spent,” Banister said. “They basically slept at work, and were your typical startup story of being under the couch. Every time I met with them, the story was, in the very early stages was about the same for the first couple years, which was, we’re scraping Craigslist, we’re starting to get some traction.”

The idea of powering a Craigslist replacement with more of a marketplace model was something that appealed to Thumbtack’s earliest investor and champion, the serial entrepreneur and angel investor Jason Calcanis.

Thumbtack chief executive Marco Zappacosta

“I remember like it was yesterday when Marco showed me Thumbtack and I looked at this and I said, ‘So, why are you building this?’ And he said, ‘Well, if you go on Craigslist, you know, it’s like a crap shoot. You post, you don’t know. You read a post… you know… you don’t know how good the person is. There’re no reviews.’” Calcanis said. “He had made a directory. It wasn’t the current workflow you see in the app — that came in year three I think. But for the first three years, he built a directory. And he showed me the directory pages where he had a photo of the person, the services provided, the bio.”

The first three years were spent developing a list of vendors that the company had verified with a mailing address, a license, and a certificate of insurance for people who needed some kind of service. Those three features were all Calcanis needed to validate the deal and pull the trigger on an initial investment.

“That’s when I figured out my personal thesis of angel investing,” Calcanis said.

“Some people are market based; some people want to invest in certain demographics or psychographics; immigrant kids or Stanford kids, whatever. Mine is just, ‘Can you make a really interesting product and are your decisions about that product considered?’ And when we discuss those decisions, do I feel like you’re the person who should build this product for the world And it’s just like there’s a big sign above Marco’s head that just says ‘Winner! Winner! Winner!’”

Indeed, it looks like Zappacosta and his company are now running what may be their victory lap in their tenth year as a private company. Thumbtack will be profitable by 2019 and has rolled out a host of new products in the last six months.

Their thesis, which flew in the face of the conventional wisdom of the day, was to build a product which offered listings of any service a potential customer could want in any geography across the U.S. Other companies like Handy and TaskRabbit focused on the home, but on Thumbtack (like any good community message board) users could see postings for anything from repairman to reiki lessons and magicians to musicians alongside the home repair services that now make up the bulk of its listings.

“It’s funny, we had business plans and documents that we wrote and if you look back, the vision that we outlined then, is very similar to the vision we have today. We honestly looked around and we said, ‘We want to solve a problem that impacts a huge number of people. The local services base is super inefficient. It’s really difficult for customers to find trustworthy, reliable people who are available for the right price,’” said Sander Daniels, a co-founder at the company. 

“For pros, their number one concern is, ‘Where do I put money in my pocket next? How do I put food on the table for my family next?’ We said, ‘There is a real human problem here. If we can connect these people to technology and then, look around, there are these global marketplace for products: Amazon, Ebay, Alibaba, why can’t there be a global marketplace for services?’ It sounded crazy to say it at the time and it still sounds crazy to say, but that is what the dream was.”

Daniels acknowledges that the company changed the direction of its product, the ways it makes money, and pivoted to address issues as they arose, but the vision remained constant. 

Meanwhile, other startups in the market have shifted their focus. Indeed as Handy has shifted to more of a professional services model rather than working directly with consumers and TaskRabbit has been acquired by Ikea, Thumbtack has doubled down on its independence and upgrading its marketplace with automation tools to make matching service providers with customers that much easier.

Late last year the company launched an automated tool serving up job requests to its customers — the service providers that pay the company a fee for leads generated by people searching for services on the company’s app or website.

Thumbtack processes about $1 billion a year in business for its service providers in roughly 1,000 professional categories.

Now, the matching feature is getting an upgrade on the consumer side. Earlier this month the company unveiled Instant Results — a new look for its website and mobile app — that uses all of the data from its 200,000 services professionals to match with the 30 professionals that best correspond to a request for services. It’s among the highest number of professionals listed on any site, according to Zappacosta. The next largest competitor, Yelp, has around 115,000 listings a year. Thumbtack’s professionals are active in a 90 day period.

Filtering by price, location, tools and schedule, anyone in the U.S. can find a service professional for their needs. It’s the culmination of work processing nine years and 25 million requests for services from all of its different categories of jobs.

It’s a long way from the first version of Thumbtack, which had a “buy” tab and a “sell” tab; with the “buy” side to hire local services and the “sell” to offer them.

“From the very early days… the design was to iterate beyond the traditional model of business listing directors. In that, for the consumer to tell us what they were looking for and we would, then, find the right people to connect them to,” said Daniels. “That functionality, the request for quote functionality, was built in from v.1 of the product. If you tried to use it then, it wouldn’t work. There were no businesses on the platform to connect you with. I’m sure there were a million bugs, the UI and UX were a disaster, of course. That was the original version, what I remember of it at least.”

It may have been a disaster, but it was compelling enough to get the company its $1.2 million angel round — enough to barely develop the product. That million dollar investment had to last the company through the nuclear winter of America’s recession years, when venture capital — along with every other investment class — pulled back.

“We were pounding the pavement trying to find somebody to give us money for a Series A round,” Daniels said. “That was a very hard period of the company’s life when we almost went out of business, because nobody would give us money.”

That was a pre-revenue period for the company, which experimented with four revenue streams before settling on the one that worked the best. In the beginning the service was free, and it slowly transitioned to a commission model. Then, eventually, the company moved to a subscription model where service providers would pay the company a certain amount for leads generated off of Thumbtack.

“We weren’t able to close the loop,” Daniels said. “To make commissions work, you have to know who does the job, when, for how much. There are a few possible ways to collect all that information, but the best one, I think, is probably by hosting payments through your platform. We actually built payments into the platform in 2011 or 2012. We had significant transaction volume going through it, but we then decided to rip it out 18 months later, 24 months later, because, I think we had kind of abandoned the hope of making commissions work at that time.”

While Thumbtack was struggling to make its bones, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest were raking in cash. The founders thought that they could also access markets in the same way, but investors weren’t interested in a consumer facing business that required transactions — not advertising — to work. User generated content and social media were the rage, but aside from Uber and Lyft the jury was still out on the marketplace model.

“For our company that was not a Facebook or a Twitter or Pinterest, at that time, at least, that we needed revenue to show that we’re going to be able to monetize this,” Daniels said. “We had figured out a way to sign up pros at enormous scale and consumers were coming online, too. That was showing real promise. We said, ‘Man, we’re a hot ticket, we’re going to be able to raise real money.’ Then, for many reasons, our inexperience, our lack of revenue model, probably a bunch of stuff, people were reluctant to give us money.”

The company didn’t focus on revenue models until the fall of 2011, according to Daniels. Then after receiving rejection after rejection the company’s founders began to worry. “We’re like, ‘Oh, shit.’ November of 2009 we start running these tests, to start making money, because we might not be able to raise money here. We need to figure out how to raise cash to pay the bills, soon,” Daniels recalled. 

The experience of almost running into the wall put the fear of god into the company. They managed to scrape out an investment from Javelin, but the founders were convinced that they needed to find the right revenue number to make the business work with or without a capital infusion. After a bunch of deliberations, they finally settled on $350,000 as the magic number to remain a going concern.

“That was the metric that we were shooting towards,” said Daniels. “It was during that period that we iterated aggressively through these revenue models, and, ultimately, landed on a paper quote. At the end of that period then Sequoia invested, and suddenly, pros supply and consumer demand and revenue model all came together and like, ‘Oh shit.’”

Finding the right business model was one thing that saved the company from withering on the vine, but another choice was the one that seemed the least logical — the idea that the company should focus on more than just home repairs and services.

The company’s home category had lots of competition with companies who had mastered the art of listing for services on Google and getting results. According to Daniels, the company couldn’t compete at all in the home categories initially.

“It turned out, randomly … we had no idea about this … there was not a similarly well developed or mature events industry,” Daniels said. “We outperformed in events. It was this strategic decision, too, that, on all these 1,000 categories, but it was random, that over the last five years we are the, if not the, certainly one of the leading events service providers in the country. It just happened to be that we … I don’t want to say stumbled into it … but we found these pockets that were less competitive and we could compete in and build a business on.”

The focus on geographical and services breadth — rather than looking at building a business in a single category or in a single geography meant that Zappacosta and company took longer to get their legs under them, but that they had a much wider stance and a much bigger base to tap as they began to grow.

“Because of naivete and this dreamy ambition that we’re going to do it all. It was really nothing more strategic or complicated than that,” said Daniels. “When we chose to go broad, we were wandering the wilderness. We had never done anything like this before.”

From the company’s perspective, there were two things that the outside world (and potential investors) didn’t grasp about its approach. The first was that a perfect product may have been more competitive in a single category, but a good enough product was better than the terrible user experiences that were then on the market. “You can build a big company on this good enough product, which you can then refine over the course of time to be greater and greater,” said Daniels.

The second misunderstanding is that the breadth of the company let it scale the product that being in one category would have never allowed Thumbtack to do. Cross selling and upselling from carpet cleaners to moving services to house cleaners to bounce house rentals for parties — allowed for more repeat use.

More repeat use meant more jobs for services employees at a time when unemployment was still running historically high. Even in 2011, unemployment remained stubbornly high. It wasn’t until 2013 that the jobless numbers began their steady decline.

There’s a question about whether these gig economy jobs can keep up with the changing times. Now, as unemployment has returned to its pre-recession levels, will people want to continue working in roles that don’t offer health insurance or retirement benefits? The answer seems to be “yes” as the Thumbtack platform continues to grow and Uber and Lyft show no signs of slowing down.

“At the time, and it still remains one of my biggest passions, I was interested in how software could create new meaningful ways of working,” said Banister of the Thumbtack deal. “That’s the criteria I was looking for, which is, does this shift how people find work? Because I do believe that we can create jobs and we can create new types of jobs that never existed before with the platforms that we have today.”

Looks like Google is changing Android’s gun emoji into a water gun

Back in 2016, Apple swapped out the graphic used for its gun emoji, replacing the realistically drawn handgun with a bright green water gun.

Just a few days ago, Twitter followed suit.

And now, it seems, so will Google . The gun emoji on Android will likely soon appear as a bright orange and yellow super soaker lookalike.

As first noted by Emojipedia, Google has just swapped the graphics in its open Noto Emoji library on GitHub. These are the Emoji that Android uses by default, so the same change will presumably start to roll out there before too long.

At this point, Google making this change seemed inevitable. It seemed likely to happen as soon Apple made the jump; once others started following suit (Twitter earlier this week, and Samsung with the release of the Galaxy S9) it became a certainty.

It’s a matter of clarity in communication. If a massive chunk of people (iOS users) can send a cartoony water toy in a message that another massive chunk of people (Android users) receive as a realistically drawn handgun, there’s room for all sorts of trouble and confusion. Apple wasn’t going to reverse course on this one — and now that others have made the change, Google would’ve been the odd one out.

Google attempts to get Android messaging right (again) with Chat

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As predicted, Android is stepping up its messaging game to be on the same page as Apple’s iMessage and Facebook Messenger.

Google’s launching a new messaging service simply called Chat, and it’s the latest, and hopefully best effort by the tech giant to simplify the messaging offering on Android.

As revealed by The Verge, Chat is a rich communication service (RCS) that Google has been pushing carriers and smartphone makers to adopt.

It’s not a new app, but rather an upgrade of the existing messaging experience on Android. It’ll add features like read receipts, being able to see other people typing, full-resolution images and video, and group texting. Read more…

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Google spruiks Assistant with Chrissy Teigen and John Legend

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Just like you, celebrities find the small things in life difficult.

It’s something that’s highlighted in a series of ads for Google Assistant, released during the Oscars on Monday.

The first of the ads features John Legend and Chrissy Teigen, trying to deal with the annoying task of searching for a show on TV, convincing that you should “make Google do it,” the ad’s tagline.

Legend actually sings in one of the ads too, albeit about the time it takes for Teigen to find a TV show.

Then here’s NBA star Kevin Durant forgetting to remember his grocery list. Read more…

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Finally, tech’s elite speak out against Silicon Valley’s unchecked power

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They helped create Facebook, Google, and other companies who claim to bring the world together. But on Monday evening, these people gathered to discuss how tech products are tearing us apart. 

“Facebook created a business model that essentially made people who believe [conspiracy theories] more valuable,” said Roger McNamee, an early advisor to Mark Zuckerberg, speaking at an event at The New School in New York City titled “The Dark Side of Design: A Conversation About Addictive Technology. “It was in [Facebook’s] interest to appeal to fear and anger.”

McNamee is one of the founders of the Center for Humane Technology, a new coalition of tech creators dedicated to studying the effects of technology. This week, the group announced a partnership with nonprofit media watchdog group Common Sense Media to launch an ad campaign on tech addiction.  Read more…

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Google confirms investment in Indonesia’s ride-hailing leader Go-Jek

 Google has confirmed its investment in Go-Jek, the hail-railing service that rivals Uber and Grab in Indonesia. TechCrunch reported the investment last week, which was made alongside China’s Meituan-Dianping and Singaporean sovereign fund Temasek. The trio were part of a final tranche of a $1.2 billion round that Go-Jek began negotiating on last April, with commitments from the likes… Read More

Crunch Report | MoviePass pulls out of 10 AMC theaters

Google experiments in local news, MoviePass pulls out of AMC theaters and the Kalanick-Benchmark lawsuit has officially been dismissed. All this on Crunch Report. Read More

US-China biotech startup XtalPi lands $15M from Google, Tencent and Sequoia

 Google continues to increase its presence in China after it joined Sequoia China and Tencent in a $15 million investment for XtalPi, a U.S.-China biotech firm that uses artificial intelligence and computing to accelerate the development of new drugs. The search giant remains blocked in China, but that hasn’t stopped it from making a series of moves in recent months. It is opening an… Read More

Google declares war against Alexa and Siri at CES 2018

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It’s an artificial intelligence showdown.

This year at CES, the world’s largest electronics trade show (running Jan. 9-12), thousands of companies will travel to Las Vegas to show off their newest products and build new partnerships. But this time around, one unusual exhibitor stands out from the rest: Google.

It’s the first time in many years that Google will have its own, large, standalone booth in the middle of the convention center. But the search giant has gone far beyond buying space on the showroom floor. It’s also commissioned several large advertisements around the city, including one you simply can’t miss. Read more…

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Google has planted its flag at CES

 Google’s here, and it’s planning something big. The company’s presence is impossible to miss as you drive down Paradise Road toward the Las Vegas Convention Center. Like much the rest of the show, the company’s parking lot booth is still under construction today, but the giant, black and white “Hey Google” sign is already hanging above it, visible from… Read More

Those huge CPU vulnerabilities, Meltdown and Spectre, explained

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By now you’ve probably heard. A large portion of the world’s computer processors are vulnerable to at least one of two exploits that render them susceptible to hackers. But what, exactly, is going on — and what can you do to protect yourself?

While the answer to the first question is complicated, thankfully the answer to the second isn’t. It turns out that companies like Google and Microsoft have been working behind the scenes to create patches for what the security community has named Meltdown and Spectre. 

But we’re not out of the woods yet, and, depending on your operating system, you still need to take some proactive measures to make sure your data is safe.  Read more…

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Crunch Report | Apple Apologizes for Slowing Down iPhones

Apple apologizes for slowing down iPhones, humans spent $200 million on apps this Christmas and Google retires the Pixel C tablet. All this on Crunch Report. Read More

Why Google’s new Doodle is dedicated to Marlene Dietrich

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One of Hollywood’s Golden Age legends has been glorified in a Google Doodle.

The Doodle depicts Marlene Dietrich, famous for her breakout 1930 role as cabaret singer Lola-Lola in Germany’s first talking picture, Der Blaue Engel, and who was born on this day in 1901 — that’s 116 years ago.

Illustrated by artist Sasha Steinberg (also known as drag queen Sasha Velour and winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9), the Doodle shows Dietrich performing in a gender-bending top hat and tuxedo, worn in her Hollywood debut role as nightclub dancer Amy Jolly in 1930’s Morocco. Read more…

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The keys to your house belong to startups

 Silicon Valley may be the techiest place on earth, but even here, the way people open the front door hasn’t changed much in a century. Most of us still get in by turning a flat metal key in a lock. Visitors ring doorbells, and we peep at them through peepholes. If we’re out, keyless guests are out of luck. If investors have their way, that status quo will look quite primitive in a… Read More

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Watch Google unveil the Pixel 2 live right here

 Google’s big event is today. And this time, it’s all about new devices — the company should unveil a handful of new hardware products. The event will start at 9 AM in San Francisco, 12 PM in New York, 5 PM in London, 6 PM in Paris. And we already know what to expect. The big elephant in the room is Google’s new flagship Android phone, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. It… Read More

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Africa Roundup: eBay expands, Google CEO visits Lagos, Ghana enters space

 eBay opened up its U.S. platform to Africa through its partnership with MallforAfrica.com. Americans can now buy products on eBay from select vendors in six African countries, starting with merchandise categories of fashion, art, jewelry, and clothing.
For the new program, MallforAfrica selects the sellers and handles payments on its proprietary platform. DHL is the shipping partner. Online… Read More

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Crunch Report | China’s Central Bank Puts a Ban on ICOs

China’s central bank puts a ban on ICOs, the next generation of the Lily drone is here, WhatsApp for Business is launching and Alphabet creates a new holding company to complete 2015 corporate reorganization. All this on Crunch Report! Read More

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Google is using your entire search history to create a personalized news feed

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Google, perhaps more than any other tech giant, knows an astonishing amount about you. 

Your search history alone could be enough to paint a surprisingly vivid portrait of everything, from your current hobbies to your deepest darkest secrets . Not to mention everything you’ve ever done in Google’s many other services, like YouTube and Maps. 

Now, Google is taking everything it’s learned about you (and everything it’s guessed about you) and is using it to create a personalized feed. The feed will appear alongside search on Google’s apps and, eventually, in your browser and other platforms.

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VCs determined to replace your job keep AI’s funding surge rolling in Q2

 These are good times for AI entrepreneurs. Venture, corporate and seed investors have put an estimated $3.6 billion into AI and machine learning companies this year, according to Crunchbase data. That’s more than they invested in all of 2016, marking the largest recorded sum ever put into the space in a comparable period. Read More

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Google Maps now lets users add wheelchair accessibility details for locations

 Back in December, Google finally added accessibility details to Maps. It was a long awaited addition, but an extremely welcome one for the more than three million people in the U.S. who require wheelchair accessibility. As we noted at the time, however, the available information still left a lot to be desired. Maps has currently collected accessibility data for almost seven million places,… Read More

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The Hidden Advantages Of Using Nofollow Links For Your SEO Strategy

What is the ultimate goal of your marketing strategy?

For most companies, it is to increase their brand presence. In digital marketing, it is all about getting in the first few ranks of Google search results. You should push your brand towards popularity to increase your ROI.

According to the leading SEO companies, it is all about getting the right kind of links. Getting outbound links and inbound links is the perfect way to encourage new customers. This improves search result ranks as well.

The ideal number of inbound links and outbound links is yet to be found. However, 1:1 seems to be the golden ratio for blogs right now.

Before we get into the details, let’s first talk about the kinds of links that matter.

Dofollow links are the most common type of links that SEOs use to usher in search engine crawlers for site indexing. We have always perceived Nofollow links as the less useful ones. However, a recent report from Kick Media SEO is about to change that.

What are Dofollow links?

If you are aware of SEO terms and practices, we are sure you are already on the edge of your seat waiting to correct us. Technically, there are NO dofollow links. All natural links without the nofollow tag are Dofollow or followed links. These are the literal opposite of the Nofollow links.

It is a link that search engine crawlers can follow to index the content. Dofollow links are the default. Unless you add a Nofollow link, all pages have a basic Dofollow link. This signal is organic and trusted by bots.

The more Dofollow links a website has, the more Google regards the site as authoritative. They are the positive signals no bots can disregard.

What are Nofollow links?

Nofollow links make sure that Google does not pass any “link juice” to your target page. Google does not transfer any PageRank across these sites either. SEOs have always overlooked them since they considered these links ineffective.

Apparently, these links do not have any direct impact on site SEO. Therefore, all efforts on a Nofollow link are useless.

However, Google states they do not follow these links “in general.” This leaves much room for assumptions. This is where a few SEO companies jumped in for new research.

What are the benefits of Nofollow links?

It is quite apparent that using Nofollow links will not boost your page rank. However, Google can use these links to increase your user engagement, particularly organic user engagement. They can boost your visibility and credibility. They can act as an introduction to your company, brands and products.

For Rob Toledo from Moz, using a nofollow link got him hundreds of visitors. It increased CTR and user engagement. Much like his experience, an upward trend is now an expected outcome of using nofollow links.

It is all about balancing the links. The ratio does not have to be 1:1. It is more about your brand’s requirements. Using 40 nofollow links against 60 dofollow links is a standard practice. This creates a more natural link profile that keeps the link ratios almost even.

How can you make the most of your nofollow links?

Nofollow links can bring you more organic engagement. Not all these links are equal and you cannot expect all of them to put in the same kind of traffic. Here are a few ways to optimize your nofollow links:

  • Make it interesting. Make sure the link leads to engaging content. People should feel intrigued by the product or service that is at the end of that link.
  • Develop compelling content. This is basic for any successful digital marketing strategy. If you want the best out of your SEO strategy, you need to work your content team. Get them to write compelling content that will entice human readers and will engage bots for easy indexing.
  • Blend your links. You cannot work with nofollow or dofollow links only. You also need to factor in outbound links that will lead users to authoritative sites. Conduct A/B tests to perfect the ratio according to the outcomes.
  • Include freebies. People love free gifts. The only challenge of working with Nofollow links is to lure people to follow the links. For example, if someone is advertising your products with nofollow links, make sure they link to some contest. This will encourage participation and boost your online presence.

Although Nofollow links have been around since 2005, we have started exploring them only recently. They are no longer response to spam comments and negative reviews. They are now instruments of organic SEO.

See Also: The Future of SEO – Predictions and Premonitions That Will Dominate 2017

 

The post The Hidden Advantages Of Using Nofollow Links For Your SEO Strategy appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

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Crunch Report | Google To Stop Scanning Inboxes

Crunch Report June 23 Today’s Stories  Google now has all the data it needs, will stop scanning Gmail inboxes for ad personalization Samsung’s Galaxy Note8 will reportedly be the company’s most expensive smartphone yet YouTube TV expands to 10 more U.S. markets, adds more YouTube Red series Tesla said to be in talks to create its own streaming music service Credits Written and Hosted by:… Read More

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After beating the world’s elite Go players, Google’s AlphaGo AI is retiring

 Google’s AlphaGo — the AI developed to tackle the world’s most demanding strategy game — is stepping down from competitive matches after defeating the world’s best talent. The latest to succumb is Go’s top-ranked player, Ke Jie, who lost 3-0 in a series hosted in China this week. The AI, developed by London-based DeepMind, which was acquired by Google… Read More

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Chinese authorities banned the broadcast of a match between top Go player and AlphaGo AI

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A Go match between the world’s top player, Ke Jie, and Google’s AlphaGo that took place this week was censored by authorities, reports Quartz.

The AI beat Ke Jie in yet another match today, securing a win in the three-part match.

Three journalists have reported receiving verbal directives barring their news organisations from broadcasting the match — as well as the Go and AI summit held in Wuzhen, east China. 

One journalist reported being barred from even mentioning Google’s name while reporting on the event, while another said that while they could mention Google, they were barred from writing about Google’s products. Read more…

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Google just made a very subtle change to its Play Store logo and icons

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Google’s Play Store is getting a brand new look … well, kind of.

In a continuing effort refine the Play brand, Google has quietly rolled out a new logo for the Play Store, Android Police noticed. The new logo drops the shopping bag, just leaving the colorful triangle as the new app icon.

New Logo

New Logo

Image: google

Old Logo

Old Logo

Image: google

While the new icon first appeared on Google’s new Pixel phone, the bagless design is now rolling out to other devices too.

Sure, it’s a very subtle change, but the redesign comes with a big branding message. As Google continues to tweak logo designs, it’s creating a cohesive visual identity tied to the clean, material design aesthetic that the company announced a few years ago.  Read more…

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Media Prima buys Rev Asia for $24M to create Malaysia’s largest digital media platform

 The U.S. isn’t the only market where media companies are consolidating to offer an advertising platform to rival Facebook and Google.
While AOL (which owns TechCrunch) is in the process of acquiring Yahoo, over in Malaysia a similar consolidation was announced this week — although not quite on the scale of AOL-Yahoo (Oath?!) and its $4.48 billion price tag. Media Prima, a… Read More

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Google's new AutoDraw wants to make drawing easier for everyone

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Your doodles are about to get a whole lot better.

Part of Google’s new A.I. Experiments collection, AutoDraw is like an AI-powered Microsoft Paint. The app combines conventional doodling with art from professionals to enhance your doodles and help create better art. 

The app works by trying to guess what you’re drawing and then offering alternatives for you to build on. 

Image: google

Google calls AutoDraw “a drawing tool for the rest of us;” that is, people who aren’t professional designers. What it really does is recognize what you’re trying to draw and replace that with a version drawn by an artist. The tool turned my terrible doodle of a cake that really could have been anything, and offered me this great cake instead.  Read more…

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So much for Equal Pay Day: Google accused of 'very significant' pay discrimination

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The Labor Department claimed Friday that Google has fostered an “extreme” gender pay gap across its entire workforce.

The bombshell accusation stems from an ongoing investigation into the search giant’s payroll practices, The Guardian first reported. It also comes three days after the company sang its own praises on Equal Pay Day.

A department official testified in a San Francisco courtroom this week that enough “compelling evidence” had already been found to make a case for systemic discrimination. The agency first filed suit against Google in January in a bid to force the company to turn over salary data in accordance with anti-discrimination laws. Read more…

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Commission your own traffic and construction studies without ever leaving bed using SpaceKnow

 The number of things that can be done from the comfort of one’s own bed has increased in recent years — shopping, banking and now geospatial analytics. Ok, it doesn’t sound sexy but it might give you a leg up the next time your friend starts an arcane argument with you over whose neighborhood historically has more vehicles on the road. With SpaceKnow’s online… Read More

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A big challenger is about to change the way you use Facebook to log in on websites

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There are two ways to log in on websites: try to recall the email address and password you registered with —  or simply hit the “Facebook Login” button. 

The convenience of the latter underscores the popularity of social authentication options. You’ll see Facebook and Google login buttons on popular sites including Netflix, Uber, Spotify, Imgur and Linkedin, just to name some.

Facebook itself estimates that some 350 million people log into a new app or site with their Facebook credentials every month. 

Olga Kuznetsova, Engineering Manager at Facebook told us that the Facebook Login button ranks in the top three of consumer account creation and sign-in preferences worldwide. Read more…

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Truecaller adds payments and Google Duo video calls in move to rival WhatsApp in India

Sweden-based startup Truecaller made its name as a nifty mobile app that helps people fielder out unwanted phone calls and messaging, but now it is making a move to become a platform. At a press event in India, Truecaller’s largest market based on its 150 million users, the company announced a series of partnerships, including a tie-in with Google which will see the U.S.… Read More

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Social media firms facing fresh political pressure after London terror attack

 Yesterday UK government ministers once again called for social media companies to do more to combat terrorism. “There should be no place for terrorists to hide,” said Home Secretary Amber Rudd, speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr program. Read More

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Should you install solar panels on your roof? Ask Google

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In 2015, Google launched Project Sunroof, a map that shows which houses have enough sun exposure for solar panels to be a viable energy source. However, the original map was very limited, covering only the San Francisco Bay Area, Fresno, California and Boston.

Now, Google has greatly expanded the project to cover all 50 U.S. states, with a total of 60 million buildings in the database. 

The project uses imagery from Google Earth and Maps as well as some machine learning magic to get a good idea of how much sunlight each portion of each roof is getting. According to Google, weather patterns, sun positioning changes and possible shade from nearby buildings is taken into account.  Read more…

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Google Scholar might finally be Google's way back into China

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After Google exited China seven years ago, it might finally have a way back in.

A senior Chinese lawmaker has revealed that Google Scholar — Google’s search engine for academic literature — is on a priority list to be allowed back over the Great Firewall.

Google and all its services like Gmail and Google Maps are blocked in China, and users there need to use a VPN if they want to access Google services.

The move will seek to enhance Chinese “academic progress,” the South China Morning Post quoted Liu Binjie as saying. Liu, a government party member and former head of China’s top censorship body, said China’s academics will likely be the first to access Google Scholar. Read more…

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Crunch Report | Oculus CTO Is Suing ZeniMax

Bolt Threads creates a tie made from spiderwebs, Oculus’ CTO is suing ZeniMax for money never paid to him and Google has a new startup competition. All this on Crunch Report. Read More

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Crunch Report| Airbnb Raises $1 Billion

Google’s Jamboard will cost $5,000 plus an annual management fee, Airbnb closes Series F to go over $1 billion, Google goes after Slack and Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan are expecting their second baby. All this on Crunch Report. Read More

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British newspapers want Facebook and Google investigated over fake news

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UK news publishers think they’ve found a solution for the rise of “fake news”: investigate the “duopoly” of Google and Facebook. 

The News Media Association (NMA), which represents the UK newspaper industry, called on British lawmakers to grill representatives from both companies and hold them to account for spreading and profiting from the phenomenon. 

Fake news, argues the NMA, is easy to produce because its creators don’t have to spend money or time on proper fact-checking or reporting — unlike real journalism.  Read more…

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British newspapers want Facebook and Google investigated over fake news

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UK news publishers think they’ve found a solution for the rise of “fake news”: investigate the “duopoly” of Google and Facebook. 

The News Media Association (NMA), which represents the UK newspaper industry, called on British lawmakers to grill representatives from both companies and hold them to account for spreading and profiting from the phenomenon. 

Fake news, argues the NMA, is easy to produce because its creators don’t have to spend money or time on proper fact-checking or reporting — unlike real journalism.  Read more…

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Watch day 2 of Google Cloud Next developer conference live right here

 Yesterday was just the beginning of Google’s Cloud Next conference. The company talked about the vision for Google Cloud. Today will be all about product announcements that are going to make your life easier as a developer. At 9 AM PT/12 PM ET/5 PM GMT, you’ll be able to watch Google introduce all those new features live. Today, you can expect to see Urs Hölzle, Prabhakar Raghavan… Read More

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Watch day 2 of Google Cloud Next developer conference live right here

 Yesterday was just the beginning of Google’s Cloud Next conference. The company talked about the vision for Google Cloud. Today will be all about product announcements that are going to make your life easier as a developer. At 9 AM PT/12 PM ET/5 PM GMT, you’ll be able to watch Google introduce all those new features live. Today, you can expect to see Urs Hölzle, Prabhakar Raghavan… Read More

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Google says it already fixed 'many' of the security flaws from Vault 7 leak

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On Tuesday, WikiLeaks released a large trove of documents, allegedly containing CIA hacking tools and security exploits for all major software platforms, including Android. 

Now, Google has publicly responded to the leak, claiming “many” of the vulnerabilities are already fixed. 

“As we’ve reviewed the documents, we’re confident that security updates and protections in both Chrome and Android already shield users from many of these alleged vulnerabilities,” Heather Adkins, Director of Information Security and Privacy, told Mashable in a statement. “Our analysis is ongoing and we will implement any further necessary protections. We’ve always made security a top priority and we continue to invest in our defenses.” Read more…

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