Eric Schmidt: It’s possible to use Android without Google search

Google chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt is on Capitol Hill testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on antitrust issues, competition policy and consumer rights. Just a quick note here. When asked whether Google can use Android to disadvantage competitors by tying that operating system to Google services, Schmidt responded, per transcript over at the Wall Street Journal blogs.

It’s possible to use Google search with Android but also possible to expressly not use Google search.

Also, Google has just been accused of “having monopoly power in Android”.

While some would be quick to accuse Schmidt of bending truth, there are in fact Android phones out there which use search engines other than Google. For example, Verizon’s Fascinate and Continuum smartphones are all Binged out and AT&T has some Android phones with Yahoo! search, like the Backflip.

In preparation for today’s hearing, the company this morning blogged that its users in both Europe and the U.S. are getting the same level of service and privacy protection:

Our approach, just like over 2,500 other US companies that offer services in Europe, is guided by the US – EU Safe Harbor Agreement, which is designed to ensure that transatlantic data transfers remain protected according to seven core EU-like privacy principles. In practice, for Google, Safe Harbor means our users in both Europe and the US can be sure they’re getting not just the same level of service, but also the same level of privacy protection.

And yesterday, Google published a survival guide of sorts to today’s hearing, tackling popular notions such as Google is favoring its own content or Google’s search ranking changes hurt a certain website or caused them to lose traffic. Concerning Google search, the company wrote:

Google makes more than 500 changes to our search algorithms every year, and each change is designed to improve the quality of our search results for consumers. Consumers come to search engines to help them sift through all the information on the web, and not every site can appear at the top of the results.

By the way, the Senate is live streaming the event so why not tune in?
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Google Goggles can now auto-upload your phone camera roll and check for visual search results

Goggles, a visual search technology from Google available on Android and iOS devices, is great for researching products, buildings and other objects simply by snapping them with your phone camera. Google announced in a blog post that a new version is available which lets you opt-in to have your camera roll automatically uploaded to the Google cloud. It’s similar to how the instant upload feature in the Google+ mobile app uploads photos and videos to a private album as you take them. They call it camera search and you can enable it in Goggles version 1.6 by checking Search from Camera in Menu > Settings.

Once up in the cloud, Google will auto-analyze your snaps and notify you when it recognizes something . For example, you may have taken a bunch of shots of historic buildings on your vacation. By allowing Goggles to upload your snaps, you can get search results for, say, recognized landmarks almost instantly. This lets you explore more information about the city, such as its history, and learn something new right on the spot. We like it a lot and if you’re fan of Goggles, update the app and give it a try.

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Google updates Advanced Image Search with cleaner interface, more features

Google’s been rolling out a series of product updates lately in an effort to unify its many services in terms of both looks and features departments. For example, the company is working towards bringing the encrypted and regular search pages on par. Today, the Google Operating System blog spotted that the advanced image search interface has been re-worked to function more like the corresponding web search page. In addition, the new interface provides access to the features that were previously only available in the sidebar. You’d want to tap the advanced search page (by clicking the “Advanced Image Search” link on images.google.com) in order to narrow down your search results to a domain or a country, a certain filetype or list only Creative Commons images.

Google’s art department’s not been standing still either. Ever since Larry Page took over Google’s reins and pledged his company would put great design front and center, we’ve seen the search behemoth revamp its many properties. It started with the appealing Circles interface in Google+ and continued with the little tweaks that have freshened up the overly simplistic and geeky appearance of Google’s many web properties, bringing them on par with the Google+ theme. Latest examples include the Google Account sign-in page and the Blogger interface, both updated with the new look. Google hired renowned designer who worked on the original Macintosh, Andy Hertzfeld, to create the Circles user interface.

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Encrypted Google search interface almost ready for prime time

Have you been redirected to the encrypted Google search page this morning? Worry not, you should be honored for having participated in “an experiment”, the Google Operating System blog reports. The search monster is sending “some percentage of Chrome 14 users” to the more secure, SSL-enabled search page, which is still in beta. The reason?

They are testing out the new functionality of the SSL page, which now sports nearly all of the features of its non-SSL counterpart. Previously, encrypted search lacked many features of the regular search page, such as Image Search, Google Instant and Instant Preview. The encrypted search page still lacks navigation links and Google Maps doesn’t support SSL yet.

As Google works to bring feature parity between SSL and non-SSL search pages, eventually users might just tick a check box in their search settings to opt-in to SSL search. SSL, a secure communications protocol, ensures that anything that gets sent between your browser and Google’s servers (such as your query and search results) is encrypted to prevent eavesdropping.

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Google Chrome’s future update to feature spell checker that takes context into consideration

As reported by Google Operating System, Google will release a “smarter” spell checker in a future update of Chrome. Currently, Chrome only uses the dictionary to spell check, not taking context into consideration. The future update, however, will work like Google Search’s “did you mean” feature.

Google has been hesitant to add the updated spell checker citing privacy concerns. As Google Operating System explains, a JSON-RPC request is sent to the “did you mean” service in the background, where the context-menu will then be updated. It will be interesting to see how fast Google can get results to come back.

How Google improves its search algorithm

Google’s been tight-lipped about the intricate, intertwined algorithms that make their search machine tick and we can only speculate how they rank web pages beyond the commonly known guidelines for web developers. A whole cottage industry is thriving out there, built on the presumption that one can reverse-engineer parts of the Google code so to affect search results and ensure the best possible placement. While Googlers aren’t about to spill the beans on the industry’s most closely-kept secret, they did reveal a couple of tidbits in a video published over at the official Google blog.

“While an improvement to the algorithm may start with a creative idea, it always goes through a process of rigorous scientific testing”, the company wrote in the post. “Simply put”, Google explains, “if the data from our experiments doesn’t show that we’re helping users, we won’t launch the change”. For example, did you know that the Google search algorithm is made up of several hundred different “signals” that collectively determine the results? Surprisingly, just last year Google perfected its search engine with more than five hundred algorithm changes, most of them rolled out quietly. More tidbits in that YouTube video, embedded above.

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Koreans talking about smartphones

Google is anything but the dominant force in Asia, where local search engine Baidu is number one. Also, Asia, the world’s largest and most populous continent with the population of 3.88 billion people, is just beginning to discover Android, but the continent is poised to become the next gold mine for Google as smartphones become more affordable to the mass consumer. One exemption that proves the rule: Korea, a poster child for the latest tech.

People wield the latest gadgets there and use them more often and in ways that put to shame their counterparts from the Western world. Google’s mobile ad team went out into the streets of Seoul to ask smartphone users how they use their devices. The professionally produced footage is, of course, yet another showcase of the numerous ongoing marketing activities meant to convince people to stay under the Google fold.

In this case, Google wants potential advertisers to place adverts on web sites and inject them inside mobile apps using their technology. By the way, notice a bunch of Galaxy S phones everywhere (to our Apple readers: iPhone 4 spotting on mark 1:15).

But who could blame the Internet’s #1 search company for promoting the use of smartphones? With a whopping 97 percent of Google’s revenues coming from advertising, no wonder they did not spare any expense producing this testimonial. Still, worth your time so sit back, relax and enjoy the three and a half minute ride. Also, go past the fold for interesting takeaways from a Google survey in collaboration with Ipsos of over a thousand South Korean smartphone users…

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Google recruiting spam busters

In its never-ending battle against annoying spammers who pollute our search results, the Dublin, Ireland arm of the Internet search giant published job openings for spam fighters who are fluent speakers of Arabic, German, Russian and Spanish, indicating the rising spam threat in those markets. The job listing requires would-be candidates to have BA/BS degree, “preferred with a strong academic record”, excellent web research and analytical skills and experience with HTML and working for an Internet company.

If terms such as ‘WHOIS’ or ‘DNS’ mean nothing, don’t even apply as understanding of firewalls, IP addresses and name servers is a must as you’ll be directly impacting the quality of Google’s search results through search quality evaluation. Here’s from Google:

You will be working on the cutting edge of search and the forefront of the web ensuring quality information is provided to millions of internet users, and you will be expected to keep pace with constant change in a fast-paced work environment, bringing innovative ideas to improve access to relevant information on the web. You are a web-savvy individual who is a take-charge team player, as well as a quick learner and strongly interested in providing a better search experience for Google users.

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Google partners with ESPN to incorporate sports stats into Search

Google and ESPN have announced they are now offering sports scores, presented through microdata, straight into Google Search results. For now, Google and ESPN will only be offering Baseball, but more sports will be following very soon. A simple search of “Baseball Scores” returned the following results.

Besides making the obvious search, you can also search specifically for teams, players, and scores. The results include up-to-date game scores and statistics, and link off to content on ESPN. Read more

Give Google Search’s new uncluttered design a try

Google has been on a role rolling out new designs across all of their products, including Google Search. Techno-Net (via Google Operating System) has discovered that with a small cookie change you can try the latest version of Search. The new version features a less uncluttered look, but we’ve read it isn’t as fast as the version you know and love. Head on past the break to see how it’s done.

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