Rupert Murdoch Takes on Google. And Why He May Win…

Sky News did an interview with Rupert Murdoch to discuss the coming evolution in the news industry. You’ll find the entire interview below. I found the whole thing riveting and incredibly informative. To me, one of the highlights of the interview was Murdoch’s discussion of Google. Murdoch owns a huge number of media properties, including one of the first to make for-pay news actually work, the Wall Street Journal. Murdoch makes the case that preventing Google from indexing his sites is the future of his empire and will, ultimately, be profitable.

To clarify this, when an indexing robot hits a web site, it checks for a file named robots.txt that lays out the rules for indexing that site. This is called the Robots Exclusion Protocol. Murdoch is suggesting that his properties will turn on “full disallow”, making all his sites non-searchable by search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.

Many people view this as a bluff. After all, if Google and company are not allowed to index your site, no one will find your site and your visitor count will dry up and disappear. But those folks miss Murdoch’s vision. Murdoch believes that the only value in having huge numbers is to support on-line advertising, which he sees as having minimal value in the long run. Instead, Murdoch wants to turn all of his sites into high quality for-pay news/media sources like the Wall Street Journal. Much smaller audience, but one that he controls. Right now, when someone visits one of his news sites, the news aggregator owns the audience. As an example, if you visit Google News and see a story that interests you, you’ll follow the link, read the story, then close the window. This will leave you back in Google News. They own you.

Ultimately, I think Murdoch will win this game. And, in doing so, I believe the model he espouses will save the dying news industry. Without this approach, the quality of news content will continue to wallow. After all, the open source model does not guarantee quality. It guarantees equal, free access to information, true. But who will pay for the Christiana Amanpours of the world? The Walter Cronkites? The Woodward and Bernsteins? Without a high quality for-pay news model, those folks will become a distant memory.

To be clear, I am no fan of Murdoch or of Fox News. But I worry about the current direction of the news industry as news outlets pull back on their coverage. I believe a healthy news industry is vital to our way of life.

– Dave

Google Offers Free GPS, Crushes Garmin and TomTom…

Bottom line, Google will offer free turn-by-turn directions for Android and third party phones like the iPhone. And that spells big trouble for dedicated device manufacturers such as Garmin and TomTom. In my opinion, they are toast. Might take a few years, but the days of specialty devices are quickly drawing to a close. And you can thanks Steve Jobs for his brilliant vision of a device that is incredibly easy to program and an App Store that makes the distribution of powerful apps easy as pie and enriching for the company.

Google’s turn-by-turn service will be free, and free is hard to compete with.

Here’s a nice article from the NYTimes that goes into detail. Kudos to my buddy Todd for bringing this to my attention…

– Dave

More about the Google Puzzle…

OK, so it really was Google. Stu found this terrific blog post from Raj Sarkar that laid the whole thing out.

In case this is new to you, here’s a link to the original post showing the puzzle.

The puzzle generated two completely unrelated phone numbers. If you count the letter clusters (6 letters, then 1, then 7, etc.) in the puzzle you found 617-274-866. Someone tried all ten final digits and discovered an answering machine that said, we’re not Google, but leave your name and number anyway. Two theories here. One, they really are Google, and they are sorting the puzzle answerers. Or two, they are not Google, started getting a trickle of calls on their phone line, decided to set up the message to gather this stream of contacts. Has anyone left their contact info? Anyone been contacted back?

As Raj points out, there’s a substitution cypher that yields the message, “Congratulations Keep Searching or Call 617-639-0570 x10.”

And that one is Google. Or maybe its a dude, playing a dude, disguised as another dude. See below.

– Dave

More on Google Puzzle…It’s NOT Google…

I dialed the phone number embedded in the puzzle, 617.274.8660, and got this message:

“Congratulations on solving the second, harder puzzle. Unfortunately, we’re not Google, but leave your name and number – you won’t regret it.”

I was tempted to, but didn’t. If anyone does, let me know who these folks are. Pretty clever, though I’m not so sure how happy I’d be if I was Google…

– Dave

Author’s Guild vs. Google, Deadline Approaching…

Are you a published author? If so, you may have received a notice regarding the landmark lawsuit filed by the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers against Google (famous for adopting the Hippocratic Rule, “First, do no harm” as their motto – I’ve always liked that).

In a nutshell, Google contracted with a number of universities, including the University Library of the University of Michigan, to digitally scan and create a searchable index of a subset of the books in their collection. Sounds cool, right?

The problem is, suppose you are an author of books in that collection. If Google makes the entire collection available on-line, your ability to make money from those books is gone. Thus, the lawsuit.

If you are a published author and are affected by this, you should have received received a rightsholders notice describing the lawsuit and giving you a chance to opt out so you could pursue your own claim against the company. The original notices were mailed out on January 5th, 2009.

The deadline for opting out is coming up fast. The last opt-out day os September 4th, 2009.

Me, I’ve got a number of books in the settlement and I’m staying in. First, I am a fan of Google and I believe in what they are doing. I generally don’t write for the money, and the books in question are old books that I am more than happy to share with the universe.

That said, there are plenty of folks who feel differently. Plenty. If you are on the fence, or just plain interested, here are some things to look at.

Here’s a link to the Author’s Guild resource page, a collection of links relevant to this lawsuit.

Here’s a link to the settlement agreement.

And, finally, here’s a link to Roy Blount, Jr.’s message to the Author’s Guild membership. Roy is the president of the Author’s Guild.

Interesting, no?

– Dave

Analysis of Google’s Ban of Dot Notation…

Objective-C 2.0 introduced a convenient syntax to simplify the process of getting and setting object values. This syntax is known as dot notation.

Imagine you created an Employee class and defined an instance of Employee with the name myEmployee. To refer to an Employee property, you might use a statement like this:

employeeAge = [myEmployee age];

This code sends the age message to the myEmployee instance which returns the current value of myEmplyee’s age property and sets employeeAge to that value.

Objective-C’s dot notation allows you to rephrase the above statement like so:

employeeAge = myEmployee.age;

The dot notation tells Objective-C to call the getter function (accessor) to retrieve age and set employeeAge to that value.

Similarly, you can use dot notation to access the setter function (mutator):

myEmployee.age = employeeAge;

Dot notation is pretty straightforward, but it has caused a bit of controversy in the Objective-C community. Apple has embraced dot notation and uses it frequently in official Cocoa and Cocoa Touch sample code.

Google, meanwhile, has banned the use of dot notation in their official code. Here’s a link to Google’s official Objective-C Style Guide.

So what should you do? Use dot notation? Run away from it screaming? Shun those who do use it?

No.

Best thing to do is to read Jeff LaMarche’s cogent analysis of Google’s ban. Best take on dot notation you are likely to see, in my opinion. Jeff really knows his stuff. Take a read…

– Dave

Google Voice…

I just received my invite to activate my Google Voice account. Here’s what the email said:

If you haven’t already heard about it, Google Voice is a service that makes using your current phones much better!

Here’s what it offers:
- A personal phone number that rings all of your existing phones when people call
- All of your voicemail in one inbox with unlimited online storage and free voicemail transcripts sent to your phone and email
- Low-priced international calling to over 200 countries and free SMS
- Other powerful features like the first phone spam filter to protect you from unwanted callers, the ability to ListenIn™ on your voicemail messages while they are being left, conference calling and more

To learn more about Google Voice before registering, visit: http://www.google.com/voice/about

Please note that Google Voice is only available for sign up in the US.

The activation process was well designed. I started by logging in to my Google account. Next I chose a phone number, a 10-digit traditional phone number that folks can dial, a sort of master number under which I can place all my other phone numbers. There’s a nice little tool that let’s you choose a phone number based on area code or ZIP code. You can extend that by also providing a word or phrase, like iPhone or genome. If Google can make it work, they will. I was able to get a local number that had the word Mac in it. Nice!

Once your number is selected, Google asks you for a phone number to connect to your new Google Voice number. In other words, what phone do you want to ring when someone calls your Google Voice number? I chose my office number.

Once that’s done, Google gives you a short activation code. When you are ready, they call your new Google Voice number and you answer the phone, politely, and type in your activation code to the nice robot who called you.

That’s it for now, will let you know as I discover new features. Want to test this out? If you know me, give me a call and I’ll give you my new Google Voice number…

– Dave