Bing vs. Google: Competition gets turned up on April Fool’s Day (Video)

While Google has played several light-hearted April Fool’s jokes today, Microsoft’s search engine Bing took things to the next level by pretending to be Google.

To see the somewhat harsh joke, go to Bing’s website and then search for “Google.” A Google-like search page will appear with the header “Bing.” The fake search page features floating squares that criticize Google, but it most notably changed Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” button to “I’m Feeling Confused” with link to a blog post that fully explains the joke. 

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According to Bing.com’s blog:

So today we’re running a special test, where if you visit bing.com and enter a certain telltale query, you’ll get something a little more bland. We decided to go back to basics, to the dawn of the Internet, to reimagine Bing with more of a 1997, dial-up sensibility in mind. We may see some uptick in our numbers based on this test, but the main goal here is just to learn more about how our world would look if we hadn’t evolved.

So, Microsoft has basically slammed Google’s look and deemed it dated. Yeah. Way to keep things light, Redmond. Don’t worry, though: Google has lashed back.

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Google adds Phrasebook feature to Google Translate

Google-Translate-Phrasebook

There were hints late last month that Google was planning on adding new features to Google Translate and today the company announced a new feature for the service called Phrasebook. Rather than having to translate the same words and phrases time and time again, Phrasebook allows users to save a set of translations for quick and easy access. Google explained how the features works:

It’s easy to start using Phrasebook. Simply click the star under the translated text to save the translation in your Phrasebook. To view your Phrasebook, simply click the Phrasebook icon above the upper-right corner of the box containing the translation.

Click any phrase in your Phrasebook to load it back in the translation area. Using the Phrasebook controls, you can filter your phrases by language pair or search for a specific phrase. You can also easily listen to each phrase by hovering over the entry and selecting the text-to-speech icons.

Google could soon be adding more features to Translate as last month hints were discovered that Google is working on an option to select a dialect for certain languages in its text-to-speech feature within Google Translate. There were also additional dictionary features that have yet to be implemented.

Google testing enhanced ‘Flight Explorer’ flight search service

Google-flight-explorer

As noticed by TNW, Google appears to be testing a new flight search service that differs from its Google Flights offering launched in September of last year. In our tests, the service, dubbed “Flight Explorer”, is fully accessible through http://www.google.com/flights/explorer, indicating this might be an upcoming refresh of the Google Flights service. Upon navigating to the Flight Explorer page, Google automatically detects your location for the “From” category and selects what appears to be the next closest country in the “To” section.

The service also provides some improvements over Google’s old flights search, allowing users to select the trip length with a slider under their destination, as well as a number of filters along the top, including: Stops, Airline, Duration, Outbound time, and Return Time. While the service appears to be ready to go, clicking links for any flights that show up in the results takes you to a familiar Google Flights page currently. We expect to hear more about Google’s new Flight Explorer service soon.

Google exec reveals Incentive Targeting acquisition

Google just acquired coupon firm and platform Incentive Targeting.

The deal closed for an unknown amount at this time, but 9to5Google contacted Google for a comment, as the last unconfirmed —and false—acquisition created quite a stir in the tech blogosphere, and will update accordingly.

TechCrunch first noted that Mike Dudas, Google’s emerging business lead for mobile commerce, confirmed the news today via a Tweet on Twitter, and he further revealed the buyout will “power highly targeted manufacturer and private label coupon programs.”

Update: A Google spokesperson just confirmed the acquisition to 9to5Google:

“We look forward to working with Incentive Targeting in our ongoing efforts to help consumers save time and money and enable retailers deliver relevant discounts to the right customers.”

The full press release posted to Incentive Targeting’s website is below.

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Bing compares Google Shopping to Ebenezer Scrooge in ‘Don’t Get Scroogled’ campaign

Microsoft loves to launch ad campaigns against its No. 1 enemy, Google, and now it is embarking on yet another for Christmastime, called “Don’t Get Scroogled“, that places the Google Shopping experience under a microscope.

Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, lambasted Google today and alerted consumers of Mountain View’s pay-to-rank system for shopping results. Here’s an excerpt from the “Don’t Get Scroogled: Bing Launches Campaign for Honest Search to Help Shoppers this Holiday Season” blog post on Bing’s community website:

“Specifically, we want to alert you to what Google has done with their shopping site right in time for Christmas. Instead of showing you the most relevant shopping search results for the latest coffee maker you’re looking to buy mom, Google Shopping now decides what to show you – and how prominently to display what product offers they show — based partially on how much the merchant selling the product has paid them. Merchants can literally pay to improve their chances to display their product offers higher than others inside of Google’s shopping “search,” even if it’s not better or cheaper for the consumer. The result of this new “pay-to-rank” system is that it’s easy for consumers to mistake an ad for an honest search. That’s not right, it’s misleading. It’s not what you expect from search, and it’s not how we at Bing think search engines should help consumers get the best prices and selection when shopping.”

The Redmond, Wash.-based search engine basically said shoppers who use Google for their shopping searches are “getting ‘Scroogled’ when they should be getting fair, honest, open search.” Bing then compared Google Shopping to Ebenezer Scrooge and noted, “We think consumers should be aware what they’re seeing when they’re shopping online and to understand, without any hidden text or traps, the fine print of what their ‘search engine’ actually searches.”

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Google Translate updated with reverse translations, frequency indicators, and grouped synonyms

Google is updating its Google Translate service with a few new features today. Among the new features is grouped clusters of synonyms for easier viewing, and frequency indicators that mark translations as “common, uncommon, or rare”. Google also explained a new “reverse translations” feature:

Our users often tell us that they check our translations by translating them back into their original language. Reverse translations can distinguish translations of different meanings and reveal subtle differences among similar words. Each translation is now annotated with its most frequent reverse translations.

The new grouped synonyms will initially only be available when translating into English, but Google said more languages will be added soon. Google also described how the frequency indicators will work: Read more

Google adds AMBER Alerts for missing children to Search and Maps

Google announced today on the Official Google Blog that it will now include public AMBER Alerts through Google Search results and Maps in coordination with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Google Public Alerts platform:

If you’re using Google Search or Maps on desktop and mobile you’ll see an AMBER Alert if you search for related information in a particular location where a child has recently been abducted and an alert was issued. You’ll also see an alert if you conduct a targeted search for the situation. By increasing the availability of these alerts through our services, we hope that more people will assist in the search for children featured in AMBER Alerts and that the rates of safe recovery will rise.

Google explained the alert could include information about an abducted child or additional details including “make and model of the vehicle he/she was abducted in or information about the alleged abductor.” It also said it is working with other organizations, such as Missing Children Europe and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, to roll out alerts to other countries as well. Google has partnered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in order to display the AMBER alert data: Read more

Google allowing more users in field trial for Gmail results in Google Search

Google has opened its Google search+ Gmail result beta further this afternoon so more users can get Gmail results in their main Google Search. The feature was first introduced in a limited beta in August. For those who do not know about the feature, relevant Gmail conversations will appear in Google Search (as you can see in the image above). Just search “Paris” and emails that you have sent talking about “Paris” will then appear. If you think about it, expanded search makes a lot of sense.

Furthermore, the folks at Google announced this afternoon that Google Drive, Google Calendar and more will now appear when searching in Gmail:

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Colorado Dem Rep cautions FTC to rethink antitrust suit against Google

Jared Polis, U.S. Representative for Colorado’s 2nd congressional district

U.S. Federal Trade Commission officials supposedly want to bring an antitrust case against Google due to complaints about it suppressing competition in the market, but Colorado Rep. Jared Polis cautioned the regulatory body in a letter last week that such a lawsuit would be a “woefully misguided step.”

Many Internet businesses, such as Yelp and Nextag, have criticized Google at open hearings in Congress, asserting Google unjustly applies its search dominance to give web sites lower-quality rankings in search results. The effect would essentially push Internet users toward Google products that provide similar services.

Google has continually rebuffed any wrongdoing, and the Vice President of Engineering Amit Singhal even came to his employer’s defense on the Google Public Policy Blog earlier this summer —in an aggressive tactic not usually taken by the Mountain View, Calif.-based company—to spearhead the rumor-mill accusations in a “claim vs. fact” format.

Democrat Polis specifically wrote in his letter that an anti-trust lawsuit by the FTC would “threaten the very integrity of our anti-trust system, and could ultimately lead to Congressional action resulting in a reduction in the ability of the FTC to enforce critical anti-trust protections in industries where markets are being distorted by monopolies or oligopolies.”

Political newspaper The Hill, which first reported on the letter, further noted that Polis said the market for online search remains adequately competitive despite antitrust complaints:

He noted that customers search Amazon for shopping results, iTunes for music and movies, Facebook for social networking and Yelp for local businesses.

“To even discuss applying anti-trust in this kind of hyper-competitive environment defies all logic and the very underpinnings of anti-trust law itself,” Polis wrote.

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Google Doodle celebrates the marvel of ‘Little Nemo’ and his 107th birthday (video)

Little Nemo first appeared in the New York Herald on Oct. 15, 1905 as the protagonist kid of the “Little Nemo in Slumberland” comic strip, and Google is commemorating the tale’s 107th birthday today with an interactive doodle on the homepage.

Windsor McCay’s early 20th-century newspaper cartoon lasted nine years, while Little Nemo later inspired a slew of spin-offs such as the 1989 animated film “Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland” (YouTube video below).

Google’s visually breathtaking doodle transports Web surfers to the fanciful world of Slumberland. Folks can follow Nemo as he falls from his bed into a starlit-realm of dreams and continues tumbling for seven more panes until he ends up back in bed—tussled and amazed. It is certainly one of the search giant’s most stunning doodles ever.

Google’s full artwork for the doodle is below, while “Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland” is above.

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Report: FTC officials ‘convinced’ Google illegally used dominance to stifle competition, eyes antitrust case

A Reuters report (via CNBC) from this afternoon claimed top U.S. Federal Trade Commission officials want to bring an antitrust case against Google over numerous complaints about it abusing search dominance to suppress competition in the market.

The FTC announced earlier this year that Washington lawyer Beth Wilkinson is leading its investigation, while FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said last month they would reach a decision by 2013. If found guilty, the FTC and Google could enter settlement talks to resolve the matter or duke it out in court.

Reuters cited “three people familiar with the matter,” and it indicated Google could soon face the gristly negotiation process:

Four of the FTC commissioners have become convinced after more than a year of investigation that Google illegally used its dominance of the search market to hurt its rivals, while one commissioner is skeptical, the sources said. All three declined to be named to protect working relationships. Two of the sources said a decision on how to proceed could come in late November or early December. A long list of companies has been complaining to the FTC, arguing that the agency should crack down on Google.

Yelp  and Nextag have both criticized Google at open hearings in Congress, according to Reuters, asserting Google unjustly gives “their web sites low quality rankings in search results to steer Internet users away from their websites and toward Google products that provide similar services.”

Google has continually rebuffed any lawlessness or partial practices, and the search engine’s vice president of engineering, Amit Singhal, even stormed to the Google Public Policy Blog earlier this summer, in an aggressive tactic not usually taken by the Mountain View, Calif.-based company, to address the antitrust accusations in a “claim vs. fact” format.

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