Category: Google

Google Video Debacle Demonstrates the Need for Consumer Protection Laws

Imagine the outrage that would occur if one day every commercially manufactured DVD suddenly stopped working. The media would have a field day interviewing parents with crying children, upset because they can’t watch Finding Nemo for the 200th time. Congressional hearings would be scheduled to solve the “DVD problem”. Consumer rights advocates would mobilize urging media companies to do the right thing and either fix the problem or provide consumers with a full cash refund for every DVD purchased.

It’s an unthinkable scenario that is highly improbable in a world of physical media products like DVDs. And yet, it is exactly the sort of thing that can happen in a world of digital media products protected by proprietary Digital Rights Management (DRM) schemes. In fact, it’s a scenario that’s playing out right now. Late last week consumers who had purchased videos from the marketplace on Google Video received notice that their videos will become unplayable on August 15th.

There’s no indication of how many videos Google actually sold, although based on the failure of the service we can speculate that the number was quite low. Regardless of whether Google sold one video or one million videos they should make a commitment to adequately compensate consumers who were lead to believe that they were purchasing a perpetual license to watch the videos.


Google’s Next Five Killer Applications

Earlier this week Google unveiled the new Street View feature on Google Maps. Street View takes the mapping service to a whole new level. Where previously we were awed by the detail of the aerial photography overlaid on Google’s mapping system, now users can zoom down to street level to see exactly what’s happening in any given neighborhood. It’s all there in Google Street View — every car, every pedestrian, every stray tabby.

Not surprisingly, the feature has met with mixed reviews. While most people are appropriately impressed by the technology, more than a few people are concerned by the privacy implications. Yesterday Boing Boing kept tabs on all of the interesting discoveries bloggers were able to find in just the first day of the Street View’s availability. There was a crazy lady concerned that her cat had been photographed, a guy walking out of a strip club on O’Farrel Street, and loads of innocent bystanders who just happened to be out walking around the day the Google van rolled through their neighborhood.

Predictably, “concerned citizens” are crawling out of the woodwork complaining that Google is on the verge of becoming Big Brother. Some fear that Google has access to too much information. I say that’s Nonsense. If anything, Google doesn’t have access to enough information. In the near future, when Google has access to ALL data, we’ll finally see some really innovative applications and services.

Like these:


My Problem With The Pew High-Tech Survey

A lot of hay was made yesterday about a wide-reaching survey released yesterday by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. For example, one of the things that got serious play was that about half of the people out there still don’t live their lives around high-tech products.

Instead, I guess, they are living their lives around such mundane things as their jobs, their churches, their families and so forth. Then the survey broke down the actual users into sub-groups, and explained various things about the sub-groups. It was all very interesting and informative, and then I got to the very end . . .


How Would You Deal With A Global Bandwidth Shortage?

I’ve spent most of my adult life assuming that technology was in an endless upward spiral that would always provide me with a never ending supply of a) fast computers, b) cheap storage, and c) massive bandwidth. You can imagine my surprise when I recently discovered that we are apparently on the verge of a global bandwidth shortage. If true, that would certainly change most of my assumptions about the future of media, computing, and civilization as we know it.

My first inkling that we might have a serious problem came last week when a Google representative, speaking at the Cable Europe Congress, announced:

The Web infrastructure, and even Google’s (infrastructure) doesn’t scale. It’s not going to offer the quality of service that consumers expect.


What Ever Happened To Google Book Search

One of the great, sort-of-under the mainstream media’s radar stories of this past year was/is Google Book Search. If you hang around publishing circles (which, well, I do), it’s been a blip on the screen, but if you’re looking at big media stories, this one just seems to escape the big press.

Maybe it’s just that books aren’t as glamorous as movies, I don’t know. But while the major studios and music labels try — and I use the word very deliberately — to wrap their minds around the concept of digitizing and distributing content, Google (and, to be fair, Microsoft and Amazon) has pushed forward with its plan. As I type, I can access digitized books and make decisions about their usefulness in my current research. As more product gets added to the search engine, I find myself using this feature of Google more and more. I have actually made one purchase based on this feature. Not a bad return on investment, considering I never would have found this book on Amazon. I tried; Amazon’s search functionality denied me, time and again. Google, however, was more than happy to offer the book up right away.