Richard Waters

First, for Google’s opponents, let’s look on the bright side.

The company’s tentative deal with European regulators in April to head off a formal anti-trust complaint was, according to critics, worse than useless. In the words of Silicon Valley lawyer Gary Reback: “They were Nowheresville”.

Tuesday’s revised deal at least fixes the most glaring flaws. Whether it will do anything meaningful to change the competitive situation is another matter. Read more

Interesting commentary from around the Web on the tech story that made headlines this week.

This week Mark Zuckerberg took the wraps off Graph Search, Facebook’s revamped search engine that allows users to search through their social connections. The unveiling of the feature triggered a wave of discussion from tech commentators over whether the social network can add a new revenue stream by going after Google’s large slice of the search cake. Read more

Twitter’s displeasure with Google’s “Search plus Your World” may have been the most loudly heard reaction,  but tech commentators also took to their blogs to criticise Google’s latest enhancement to personalised search this week. Read more

Richard Waters

Mobile search and related advertising are booming. This market is really taking off at last.

But the more useful Google becomes, the more it finds itself pushing at the boundaries of what people will find acceptable. Image Search has the potential to be its next privacy landmine. Read more

Joseph Menn

Yahoo executives meeting with investors and analysts on Wednesday did what they could to assuage concerns about the company’s minority investments in China and Japan before moving on to the  sunnier topics of a surge in display advertising and the big potential for video. Read more

Richard Waters

When Google hit out at the content farms earlier this year with a change to its ranking algorithm, it was the opening blow in what looked like being a long fight.

Demand Media admitted late on Sunday that the change hurt traffic at its biggest site, eHow. But it brushed off the damage (and a 10 per cent hit to its share price) by affirming its financial guidance and saying that it had redoubled its efforts to attract eyeballs – including from Facebook. Read more

Joseph Menn

Yahoo on Wednesday began rolling out improvements to its core search function that produce results–not just links–on popular subjects much faster than before. Read more

Richard Waters

Google’s accusation today that Microsoft’s Bing is copying its search results feels like a telling moment in the long-running Search Wars.

When I caught up just now with Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search quality, he didn’t mince his words: “It’s crazy. I haven’t seen anything like this in ten years in search.” For Microsoft, it raises an uncomfortable question: after years of work and hundreds of millions of dollars, is it still unable to match Google without hanging onto its coattails? Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Google has hit back at growing criticism of the quality of its search results, with a blog post pledging to tackle “content farms” and admitting: “We can and should do better.”

The move has been seen as a threat to Demand Media, one such producer of low-cost articles and videos designed to suck up search traffic, which has just priced its initial public offeringRead more

Joseph Menn

Japan’s antitrust authorities have cleared Yahoo Japan’s plan to rely on Google for algorithmic search results, rejecting complaints from Microsoft and others that the combined service would field as much as 90 per cent of the nation’s search queries.

Japan Fair Trade Commission officials told wire services that they would not block the deal announced in July but would continue to monitor it for any harm to the market. Read more

Joseph Menn

The version of Google’s Android operating system for smartphones due out in a few weeks can be used with specialised chips to authenticate the precise location of the mobile devices, paving the way for secure payments at physical stores, Google chief executive Eric Schmidt said Monday.

Because the Near-Field Communication chips can store and exchange precise data about the phones, well beyond ordinary GPS, their adoption will allow phone owners to tap their gadgets against a physical surface to confirm their presence and identity, Mr Schmidt said. Read more

Richard Waters

Google Instant provides the clearest evidence for years that Google is still prepared to throw its engineering might – and its wallet – into raising the stakes in the search business.

This turns out to be more than the one-off launch that we wrote about last month. Rather, Instant has become a rolling series of changes that together amount to a very sizeable challenge to anyone else who wants to stay in the search business long term (are you listening, Microsoft?)

This is how Johanna Wright, director of product management for search, described the latest twist to Instant, unveiled on Tuesday: “We’ve had to take images of every page on the Web, and to know where every word on the internet sits.” Read more

Joseph Menn

Yahoo executives on Thursday outlined plans to improve its mail, news and other main services in the next few months, pledging faster load times, better integration with Facebook and Twitter, and deeper personalisation.

Chief product officer Blake Irving, who has been on the job since April, didn’t signal any bold new direction during the presentation at the company’s Sunnyvale headquarters. Instead, he argued that the company has been on the right track all along and just needs to move faster. Read more

Richard Waters

If Google Instant is everything that Google hopes it will be, the entire industry of search engine optimisers and marketers has some work to do.

The new search feature, launched at a slickly staged event at San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art (Google is finally learning some of the Apple magic), predicts a user’s intent and returns results as a query is being typed. With each additional keystroke, Google says it can make a fresh calculation of the most likely search query and show instant results.

In theory, as Googlers on hand like Marissa Mayer and Sergey Brin were quick to point out, this should make no difference to the eventual results or the adverts that users click on. The ranking algorithms remain the same. But in practice, Instant could have far-reaching effects. Read more

Joseph Menn

A year after Yahoo and Microsoft finally agreed to combine their search efforts, the result is showing up.
Starting this week, natural searches on Yahoo from the US and Canada will begin being “powered” by Bing, the Microsoft search engine. Paid search results are still on track to be delivered by Microsoft this autumn, Yahoo executives said Tuesday, unless quality issues force a delay past the winter holidays.
Most users won’t be able to tell the difference, but the relevance should be better, said Yahoo vice president Shashi Seth. Read more

Richard Waters

Today’s closure of Microsoft’s two-year-old Cashback experiment serves as a reminder of an important point: it has failed to come up with any smart ideas to subvert Google’s business model.

Ballmer and Gates always made clear that they saw the search wars taking place on two fronts – technology and business model. Improving the quality of results and the user experience was only part of the fight. Turning the tables on Google through business innovation supposedly offered another opportunity. Read more

Joseph Menn

Yahoo will put social gaming leader Zynga’s Farmville and other distractions on its pages as it tries to revive flagging user engagement and generate more ad revenue, chief executive Carol Bartz said Wednesday.

At a conference for investors and analysts at the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters, Ms Bartz and other executive said they were concerned about the drop in minutes spent on Yahoo pages per user, but promised an array of fixes. Read more

Joseph Menn

Some very nice Yahoo executives came by the FT bureau in San Francisco this afternoon to remind us that they have a search strategy and that they are still planning to integrate Facebook and Twitter activity so that Yahoo users can see what their friends and relations are doing without leaving the land of purple.

In the next couple of weeks, they said, Yahoo will start showing you when people in your Yahoo address book comment on Yahoo News stories (some 60,000 did that on a single Mississippi prom-related piece a while back), rate a song or movie, or otherwise interact with bits of Yahoo content. Read more

Maija Palmer

It was only a matter of time before Brussels began looking at an antitrust complaint against Google. Murmurings of discontent about the dominant search engine have been going on for several years now, and recently there has been a rash of smaller cases against the company.

Three particular cases are being considered by the European Commission. A complaint by Foundem, a UK vertical search company, one from, a French legal search site, and a complaint made initially in Germany by Ciao!, a vertical search site recently bought by Microsoft. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Google is holding out a helping hand to the embattled newspaper industry with a new way of browsing newspapers and magazines online.

Eric Schmidt, chief executive, has criticised the formats of online editions of newspapers as slow and “pretty unpleasant to read.”

Google unveiled “Fast Flip” at the TechCrunch50 conference in San Francisco on Monday as a possible solution. Read more