The Theory Behind Ranking Factors — Whiteboard Friday

Since day one of SEO, marketers have tried to determine what factors Google takes into account when ranking results on the SERPs. In this brand new Whiteboard Friday, Russ Jones discusses the theory behind those ranking factors, and gives us some improved definitions and vocabulary to use when discussing them.

Since day one of SEO, marketers have tried to determine what factors Google takes into account when ranking results on the SERPs. In this brand new Whiteboard Friday, Russ Jones discusses the theory behind those ranking factors, and gives us some improved definitions and vocabulary to use when discussing them.

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Video Transcription

Hi, folks. Welcome back to another Whiteboard Friday. Today, we’re going to be talking about ranking factors and the theory behind them, and hopefully get past some of these — let’s say controversies — that have come up over the years, when we’ve really just been talking past one another.

You see, ranking factors have been with us since pretty much day one of search engine optimization. We have been trying as SEOs to identify exactly what influences the algorithm. Well, that’s what we’re going to go over today, but we’re going to try and tease out some better definitions and vocabulary so that we’re not talking past one another, and we’re not constantly beating each other over the heads about correlation and not causation, or some other kind of nuance that really doesn’t matter.

Direct

So let’s begin at the beginning with direct ranking factors. This is the most narrow kind of understanding of ranking factors. It’s not to say that it’s wrong — it’s just pretty restrictive. A direct ranking factor would be something that Google measures and directly influences the performance of the search result.

So a classic example would actually be your robots.txt file. If you make a change to your robots.txt file, and let’s say you disallow Google, you will have a direct impact on your performance in Google. Namely, your site is going to disappear.

The same is true for the most part with relevancy. Now, we might not know exactly what it is that Google is using to measure relevancy, but we do know that if you improve the relevancy of your content, you’re more likely to rank higher. So these are what we would call direct ranking factors. But there’s obviously a lot more to it than that.

Google has added more and more features to their search engine. They have changed the way that their algorithm has worked. They’ve added more and more machine learning. So I’ve done my best to try and tease out some new vocabulary that we might be able to use to describe the different types of ranking factors that we often discuss in our various communities or online.

Indirect

Now, obviously, if there are direct ranking factors, it seems like there should be indirect ranking factors. And these are just once-removed ranking factors or interventions that you could take that don’t directly influence the algorithm, but they do influence some of the direct ranking factors which influence the algorithm.

I think a classic example of this is hosting. Let’s say you have a site that’s starting to become more popular and it’s time to move off of that dollar-a-month cPanel hosting that you signed up for when you first started your blog. Well, you might choose to move to, let’s say, a dedicated host that has a lot more RAM and CPU and can handle more threads so everything is moving faster.

Time to first byte is faster. Well, Google doesn’t have an algorithm that’s going out and digging into your server and identifying exactly how many CPU cores there are. But there are a number of direct ranking factors, those that are related perhaps to user experience or perhaps to page speed, that might be influenced by your hosting environment.

Subsequently, we have good reason to believe that improving your hosting environment could have a positive influence on your search rankings. But it wouldn’t be a direct influence. It would be indirect.

The same would be true with social media. While we’re pretty sure that Google isn’t just going out and saying, “Okay, whoever is the most popular on Twitter is going to rank,” there is good reason to believe that investing your time and your money and your energy in promoting your content on social media can actually influence your search results.

A perfect example of this would be promoting an article on Facebook, which later gets picked up by some online publication and then links back to your site. So while the social media activity itself did not directly influence your search results, it did influence the links, and those links influenced your search results.

So we can call these indirect ranking factors. For politeness’ sake, please, when someone talks about social media as a ranking factor, just don’t immediately assume that they mean that it is a direct ranking factor. They very well may mean that it is indirect, and you can ask them to clarify:  “Well, what do you mean? Do you think Google measures social media activity, or are you saying that doing a better job on social is likely to influence search results in some way or another?”

So this is part of the process of teasing out the differences between ranking factors. It gives us the ability to communicate about them in a way in which we’re not, let’s say, confusing what we mean by the words.

Emergent

Now, the third type is probably the one that’s going to be most controversial, and I’m actually okay with that. I would love to talk in either the comments or on Twitter about exactly what I mean by emergent ranking factors. I think it’s important that we get this one clear in some way, shape, or form because I think it’s going to be more and more and more important as machine learning itself becomes more and more and more important as a part of Google’s algorithm.

Many, many years ago, search engine optimizers like myself noticed that web pages on domains that had strong link authority seemed to do well in organic search results, even when the page itself wasn’t particularly good, didn’t have particularly good external links — or any at all, and even didn’t have particularly good internal links.

That is to say it was a nearly orphaned page. So SEOs started to wonder whether or not there was some sort of domain-level attribute that Google was using as a ranking factor. We can’t know that. Well, we can ask Google, but we can only hope that they’ll tell us.

So at Moz, what we decided to do was try and identify a series of domain-level link metrics that actually predict the likelihood that a page will perform well in the search results. We call this an emergent ranking factor, or at least I call it an emergent ranking factor, because it is obviously the case that Google does not have a specific domain-authority-like feature inside their algorithm.

But on the contrary, they also do have a lot of data about links pointing to different pages on that same domain. What I believe is going on is what I would call an emergent ranking factor, which is where, let’s say, the influence of several different metrics — none of which have a particularly intended purpose of creating something — end up being easy to measure and to talk about as an emergent ranking factor, rather than as part of all of its constituent elements.

Now, that was kind of a mouthful, so let me give you an example. When you’re making a sauce if you’re cooking, one of the most common parts of that would be the production of a roux. A roux would be a mix, normally of equal weights of flour and fat, and you would use this to thicken the sauce.

Now, I could write an entire recipe book about sauces and never use the word “roux”.  Just don’t use it, and describe the process of producing a roux a hundred times, but never actually use the word “roux”, because “roux” describes this intermediate state. But it becomes very, very useful as a chef to be able to just say to another chef (or a sous-chef, or a cook in their cookbook), “produce a roux out of” and then whatever is the particular fat that you’re using, whether it’s butter or oil or something of that sort.

So the analogy here is that there isn’t really a thing called a roux that’s inside the sauce. What’s in the sauce is the fat and the flour. But at the same time, it’s really convenient to refer to it as a roux. In fact, we can use the word “roux” to know a lot about a particular dish without ever talking about the actual ingredients of flour and of fat.

For example, we can be pretty confident that if a roux is called for in a particular dish, that dish is likely not bacon because it’s not a sauce. So I guess what I’m trying to get at here is that a lot of what we’re talking about with ranking factors is using language that is convenient and valuable for certain purposes.

Like DA is valuable for helping predict search results, but it doesn’t actually have to be a part of the algorithm in order to do that. In fact, I think there’s a really interesting example that’s going on right now — and we’re about to see a shift from the categories — which are Core Web Vitals.

Google has been pushing page speed for quite some time and has provided us several iterations of different types of metrics for determining how fast a page loads. However, what appears to be the case is that Google has decided not to promote individual, particular steps that a website could take in order to speed up, but instead wants you to maximize or minimize a particular emergent value that comes from the amalgamation of all of those steps.

We know that the three different types of Core Web Vitals are: first input delay, largest contentful paint, and cumulative layout shift. So let’s talk about the third one. If you’ve ever been on your cell phone and you’ve noticed that the text loads before certain other aspects and you start reading it and you try and scroll down and as soon as put your finger there an ad pops up because the ad took longer to load and it’s just jostling the page, well, that’s layout shift, and Google has learned that users just don’t like it. So, even though they don’t know all of the individual factors underneath that are responsible for cumulative layout shift, they know that there’s this measurement, that explains all of it, that is great shorthand, and a really effective way of determining whether or not a user is going to enjoy their experience on that page.

This would be an emergent ranking factor. Now, what’s interesting is that Google has now decided that this emergent ranking factor is going to become a direct ranking factor in 2021. They’re going to move these descriptive factors that are amalgamations of lots of little things and make them directly influence the search results.

So we can see how these different types of ranking factors can move back and forth from categories. Back to the question of domain authority. Now, Google has made it clear they don’t use Moz’s domain authority — of course they don’t — and they do not have a domain-authority-like metric. However, there’s nothing to say that at some point they could not build exactly that, some sort of domain-level, link-based metric which is used to inform how to rank certain pages.

So an emergent ranking factor isn’t stuck in that category. It can change. Well, that’s enough about emergent ranking factors. Hopefully, we can talk more about that in the comments.

Validating

The next type I wanted to run through is what I would call a validating ranking factor. This is another one that’s been pretty controversial, which is the Quality Rating Guidelines’ list of things that matter, and probably the one that gets the most talked about is E-A-T: Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness.

Well, Google has made it clear that not only do they not measure E-A-T (or at least, as best as I’ve understood, they don’t have metrics that are specifically targeted at E-A-T), not only do they not do that, they also, when they collect the data from quality raters on whether or not the SERPs they’re looking at meet these qualifications, they don’t train their algorithm against the labeled data that comes back from their quality raters, which, to me, is surprising.

It seems to me like if you had a lot of labeled data about quality, expertise, and authoritativeness, you might want it trained against that, but maybe Google found out that it wasn’t very productive. Nevertheless, we know that Google cares about E-A-T, and we also have anecdotal evidence.

That is to say webmasters have noticed over time, especially in “your money or your life” types of industries, that expertise and authority does appear to matter in some way, shape, or form. So I like to call these validating ranking factors because Google uses them to validate the quality of the SERPs and the sites that are ranking, but doesn’t actually use them in any kind of direct or indirect way to influence the search results.

Now, I’ve got an interesting one here, which is what I would call user engagement, and the reason why I’ve put it here is because this still remains to be a fairly controversial ranking factor. We’re not quite sure exactly how Google uses it, although we do get some hints every now and then like Core Web Vitals.

If that data is collected from actual user behavior in Chrome, then we’ve got an idea of exactly how user engagement could have an indirect impact on the algorithm because user engagement measures the Core Web Vitals, which, coming in 2021, are going to directly influence the search results.

Correlation

So validating is this fourth category of ranking factors, and the last — the one that I think is the most controversial  — is correlates. We get into this argument every time: “correlation does not equal causation”, and it seems to me to be the statement that the person who only knows one thing about statistics knows, and so they always say it whenever anything ever comes up about correlation.

Yes, correlation does not imply causation, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t very, very useful. So let’s talk about social metrics. This is one of the classic ones. Several times we’ve run various studies of ranking factors and discovered a direct relationship — a strong relationship — between things like Facebook likes or Google pluses in rankings.

All right. Now, pretty much everyone immediately understood that the reason why a site would have more plus-ones in Google+ and would have more likes in Facebook would be because they rank. That is to say, it’s not Google going out and depending on Facebook’s API to determine how they’re going to rank the sites in their search engine.

On the contrary, performing well in their search engine drives traffic, and that traffic then tends to like the page. So I understand the frustration there when customers start asking, “Well, these two things correlate. Why aren’t you getting me more likes?”

I get that, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t useful in other ways. So I’ll give you a good example. If you are ranking well for a keyword but yet your social media metrics are poorer than your competitors’, well, it means that there’s something going on in that situation that is making your users engage better with your competitors’ sites than your own, and that’s important to know.

It might not change your rankings, but it might change your conversion rate. It might increase the likelihood that you get found on social media. Even more so, it could actually influence your search results. Because, when you recognize the reason why you’re not getting any likes to your page is because you have broken code, so the Facebook button isn’t working, and then you add it and you start getting shared and more and more people are engaging with and linking to your content, well, then we start having that indirect effect on your rankings.

So, yeah, correlation isn’t the same as causation, but there’s a lot of value there. There’s a new area that I think is going to be really, really important for this. This is going to be natural language processing metrics. These are various different technologies that are on the cutting edge. Well, some are older. Some are newer. But they allow us to kind of predict how good content is.

Now, chances are we are not going to guess the exact way that Google is measuring content quality. I mean, unless a leaked document or something shows up, we’re probably not going to get that lucky. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be really productive if we have a number of correlates, and those correlates can then be used to guide us.

So I drew a little map here to kind of serve as an example. Imagine that it’s the evening and you’re camping, and you decide to go on a quick hike, and you take with you, let’s say, a flag or a series of flags, and you mark the trail as you go so that when it gets later, you can flick on your flashlight and just follow the flags, picking them up, to lead you back to camp.

But it gets super dark, and then you realize you left your flashlight back at camp. What are you going to do? Well, we need to find a way to guide ourselves back to camp. Now, obviously, the flags would have been the best situation, but there are lots of things that are not the camp itself and are not the path itself, but would still be really helpful in getting us back to camp. For example, let’s say that you had just put out the fire after you left camp. Well, the smell of the smoke is a great way for you to find your way back to the camp, but the smoke isn’t the camp. It didn’t cause the camp. It didn’t build the camp. It’s not the path. It didn’t create the path. In fact, the trail of smoke itself is probably quite off the path, but once you do find where it crosses you, you can follow that scent. Well, in that case, it’s really valuable even though it just mildly correlates with exactly where you need to get.

Well, the same thing is true when we’re talking about something like NLP metrics or social media metrics. While they might not matter in terms of influencing the search results directly, they can guide your way. They can help you make better decisions. The thing you want to stay away from is manipulating these types of metrics for their own sake, because we know that correlates are the furthest away from direct ranking factors — at least when we know that the correlate itself is not a direct ranking factor.

All right. I know that’s a lot to stomach, a lot to take in. So hopefully, we have some material for us to discuss below in the comments, and I look forward to talking with you more. Good luck. Bye.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

China’s Huawei says will launch Harmony OS on smartphones next year – Reuters India

SHENZHEN, China (Reuters) – Huawei Technologies plans to introduce its Harmony operating system (OS), viewed as its replacement to Google’s Android mobile operating system, on smartphones next year, as it seeks to overcome curbs placed on it by the U.S..The company first unveiled its proprietary HarmonyOS last year which it has billed as a multi-device…

SHENZHEN, China (Reuters) – Huawei Technologies plans to introduce its Harmony operating system (OS), viewed as its replacement to Google’s Android mobile operating system, on smartphones next year, as it seeks to overcome curbs placed on it by the U.S..

The company first unveiled its proprietary HarmonyOS last year which it has billed as a multi-device platform across watches, laptops and mobiles, rather than as a like-for-like challenger to Google’s Android mobile OS.

Analysts say it is the closest solution to a replacement that Huawei has, after its addition to the U.S. entity list in May last year, which barred Google from providing technical support for new Huawei phone models using Android, and from Google Mobile Services (GMS), the bundle of developer services upon which most Android apps are based.

Huawei’s consumer business group CEO Richard Yu and Wang Chenglu, president of Huawei’s consumer business group’s software department gave an update on Thursday to the company’s annual developer conference in the southern Chinese city of Dongguan.

“The milestone we’re marking is that we’re supporting Huawei devices from Harmony OS 2.0, but at the same time Harmony OS 2.0 may also be available to other vendors’ devices,” Wang said. “Harmony OS 2.0 will be available to all hardware manufacturers.”

Yu added that the company had also opened to developers a beta version for smart TVs, watches and car infotainment systems from Thursday, and plans to make it available for smartphones in December.

U.S. PRESSURE

Being cut off from Google’s Android support led the company to experience a slump in overseas smartphone sales, although that was later offset by a surge in domestic demand.

Its alternative to GMS is Huawei Mobile Services (HMS), which Yu said was now the world’s third largest mobile app ecosystem. Zhang Pingan, president of Huawei’s consumer cloud division, said overseas customers were accepting of HMS and sales of phones with HMS had “soared” since May.

Yu said the company shipped 240 million smartphones last year, which gave it a second-place market ranking in 2019, but added that software shortages had hurt sales in recent months and shipments fell to 105 million units in the first-half.

In August, the U.S. expanded earlier restrictions aimed at preventing Huawei from obtaining semiconductors without a special license. Analysts have said that Huawei’s smartphone business would disappear entirely if it could not source chipsets.

“The development of HarmonyOS and HMS is fascinating. Nevertheless, this development will need hardware to deliver to the consumers. Thus, the biggest challenge is still coming from the chips supply disruption,” said Will Wong, an analyst with consultancy IDC.

(Refiles to remove duplicate word in 6th graph)

Reporting by David Kirton in Shenzhen; writing by Brenda Goh; editing by Gerry Doyle and Elaine Hardcastle

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Boost Your Website on Google With This SEO Blueprint, Now Under $30

While social media marketing gets a lot of attention, most online traffic still comes from search. The SEO Blueprint for Ranking on Google Bundle shows you how to push your website up search results, with 21 hours of hands-on training for just $29.99. It’s good to be anywhere on the front page of Google. However, the first result…

While social media marketing gets a lot of attention, most online traffic still comes from search. The SEO Blueprint for Ranking on Google Bundle shows you how to push your website up search results, with 21 hours of hands-on training for just $29.99.

It’s good to be anywhere on the front page of Google. However, the first result gets 10 times more clicks than the tenth result. If you want to build a brand, it’s essential to optimize your website for search.

This bundle contains eight courses that reveal the strategies used by top SEO professionals. Through simple video lessons, you discover how to get ahead of the competition with just a couple of hours’ work.

Along the way, you learn how to build a sitemap to direct search engine crawlers; work with the Google Webmaster console to find problems that harm your ranking; and create content that targets specific keywords.

The training also covers YouTube, which is the second-largest search engine after Google.

It’s worth $499, but you can get the bundle now for $29.99.

sale 38682 primary image 1lx4 - Boost Your Website on Google With This SEO Blueprint, Now Under $30
SEO Blueprint for Ranking on Google Bundle – $29.99

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Do you have your stay-at-home essentials? Here are some you may have missed.

How Google delivers reliable information in Search

For many people, Google Search is a place they go when they want to find information about a question, whether it’s to learn more about an issue, or fact check a friend quoting a stat about your favorite team. We get billions of queries every day, and one of the reasons people continue to come…

For many people, Google Search is a place they go when they want to find information about a question, whether it’s to learn more about an issue, or fact check a friend quoting a stat about your favorite team. We get billions of queries every day, and one of the reasons people continue to come to Google is they know that they can often find relevant, reliable information that they can trust.

Delivering a high-quality search experience is core to what makes Google so helpful. From the early days when we introduced the PageRank algorithm, understanding the quality of web content was what set Google apart from other search engines.

But people often ask: What do you mean by quality, and how do you figure out how to ensure that the information people find on Google is reliable?

A simple way to think about it is that there are three key elements to our approach to information quality:

  • First, we fundamentally design our ranking systems to identify information that people are likely to find useful and reliable. 

  • To complement those efforts, we also have developed a number of Search features that not only help you make sense of all the information you’re seeing online, but that also provide direct access to information from authorities—like health organizations or government entities. 

  • Finally, we have policies for what can appear in Search features to make sure that we’re showing high quality and helpful content.

With these three approaches, we’re able to continue to improve Search and raise the bar on quality to deliver a trusted experience for people around the world. Let’s take a closer look at how we approach each of these areas.

Orienting our ranking systems around quality 

To understand what results are most relevant to your query, we have a variety of language understanding systems that aim to match the words and concepts in your query with related information in our index. This ranges from systems that understand things like misspellings or synonyms, to more advanced AI-based systems like our BERT-based language capabilities that can understand more complex, natural-language queries. 

Updates to our language understanding systems certainly make Search results more relevant and improve the experience overall. But when it comes to high-quality, trustworthy information, even with our advanced information understanding capabilities, search engines like Google do not understand content the way humans do. We often can’t tell from the words or images alone if something is exaggerated, incorrect, low-quality or otherwise unhelpful.

Instead, search engines largely understand the quality of content through what are commonly called “signals.” You can think of these as clues about the characteristics of a page that align with what humans might interpret as high quality or reliable. For example, the number of quality pages that link to a particular page is a signal that a page may be a trusted source of information on a topic.

We consider a variety of other quality signals, and to understand if our mixture of quality signals is working, we run a lot of tests. We have more than 10,000 search quality raters, people who collectively perform millions of sample searches and rate the quality of the results according to how well they measure up against what we call E-A-T: Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. 

Raters, following instructions anyone can read in our Search Quality Rater Guidelines, evaluate results for sample queries and assess how well the pages listed appear to demonstrate these characteristics of quality.

We recently explained the search rater process in more depth, but it’s worth noting again the ratings we receive are not used directly in our ranking algorithms. Instead, ratings provide data that, when taken in aggregate, help us measure how well our systems are working to deliver quality content that’s aligned with how people—across the country and around the world—evaluate information. This data helps us to improve our systems and ensure we’re delivering high quality results.

For topics where quality information is particularly important—like health, finance, civic information, and crisis situations—we place an even greater emphasis on factors related to expertise and trustworthiness. We’ve learned that sites that demonstrate authoritativeness and expertise on a topic are less likely to publish false or misleading information, so if we can build our systems to identify signals of those characteristics, we can continue to provide reliable information. The design of these systems is our greatest defense against low-quality content, including potential misinformation, and is work that we’ve been investing in for many years.

Info from experts, right in Search

In most cases, our ranking systems do a very good job of making it easy to find relevant and reliable information from the open web, particularly for topics like health, or in times of crisis. But in these areas, we also develop features to make information from authoritative organizations like local governments, health agencies and elections commissions available directly on Search.

For example, we’ve long had knowledge panels in Search with information about health conditions and symptoms, vetted by medical experts. More recently, we saw a significant increase in people searching for information about unemployment benefits, so we worked with administrative agencies to highlight details about eligibility and how to access this civic service. And for many years, we’ve offered features that help you find out how to vote and where your polling place is. Through the Google Civic Information API, we help other sites and services make this information available across the web. This type of information is not always easy to find, especially in rapidly changing situations, so features like these help ensure people get critical guidance when they need it most.

Helping you understand information you see

For many searches, people aren’t necessarily looking for a quick fact, but rather to understand a more complex topic. We also know that people come to Search having heard information elsewhere, with the aim of seeing what others are saying to form their own opinion.

In these cases, we want to give people tools to make sense of the information they’re seeing online, to find reliable sources and explore the full picture about a topic. 

For example, we make it easy to spot fact checks in Search, News, and now in Google Images by displaying fact check labels. These labels come from publishers that use ClaimReview schema to mark up fact checks they have published. For years now we’ve offered Full Coverage on Google News and Search, helping people explore and understand how stories have evolved and explore different angles and perspectives.

Protecting Search features through policies

We also offer more general Search features, like knowledge panels, featured snippets and Autocomplete, that highlight and organize information in unique ways or predict queries you might want to do. Because of the way these features highlight information in Search, we hold ourselves to a very high standard for quality and have guidelines around what content should appear in those spaces.

Within these features, we first and foremost design our automated ranking systems to show helpful content. But our systems aren’t always perfect. So if our systems fail to prevent policy-violating content from appearing, our enforcement team will take action in accordance with our policies. 

To learn more about how we approach policies for our search features, visit this post. And if you’re still looking for more details about Search, check out more past articles in our How Search Works series.

China’s Huawei to launch Harmony OS, its rival to Google Android, on smartphones next year – Reuters UK

FILE PHOTO: A surveillance camera is seen in front of a Huawei logo in Belgrade, Serbia, August 11, 2020. Picture taken August 11, 2020. REUTERS/Marko DjuricaSHENZHEN, China (Reuters) – Huawei Technologies plans to introduce its Harmony operating system, seen as the company’s best bet to replace Google’s Android mobile operating system, on smartphones next year,…

FILE PHOTO: A surveillance camera is seen in front of a Huawei logo in Belgrade, Serbia, August 11, 2020. Picture taken August 11, 2020. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

SHENZHEN, China (Reuters) – Huawei Technologies plans to introduce its Harmony operating system, seen as the company’s best bet to replace Google’s Android mobile operating system, on smartphones next year, the head of its consumer business group said on Thursday.

Richard Yu made the comments at the company’s annual developers conference in the southern Chinese city of Dongguan. He also said that the company had a 2.0 version of the system that it first unveiled last year, and that it planned to open to developers a beta version for smartphones in December.

Huawei’s addition to the U.S. entity list in May last year barred Google from providing technical support for new Huawei phone models using Android, and from Google Mobile Services (GMS), the bundle of developer services upon which most Android apps are based.

That led the company to experience a slump in overseas smartphone sales, although that was later offset by a surge in domestic sales. Yu said the company shipped 240 million smartphones last year, which gave it a second-place market ranking, but added that software shortages had hurt the company in recent months.

Huawei has billed Harmony as an multi-device platform across watches, laptops and mobiles, rather than as a like-for-like challenger to Google’s Android mobile operating system.

In August the U.S. expanded earlier restrictions aimed at preventing Huawei from obtaining semiconductors without a special license – including chips made by foreign firms that have been developed or produced with U.S. software or technology.

Analysts said the restrictions threaten Huawei’s crown as the world’s largest smartphone maker, a ranking it gained this year, and that its smartphone business would disappear entirely if it could not source chipsets.

Yu did not comment on the topic during his speech.

Reporting by David Kirton in Shenzhen; writing by Brenda Goh; editing by Jason Neely and Gerry Doyle

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Android 11 review: An incremental update that needs some polish

Gallery: Android 11 review | 11 Photos Since I still have to go through the entire notifications list instead of dealing with just the alerts near the top, the new section headers actually add to the amount of scrolling and swiping I have to do. Google placing conversations near the top is nice in theory, but…

Gallery: Android 11 review | 11 Photos

Since I still have to go through the entire notifications list instead of dealing with just the alerts near the top, the new section headers actually add to the amount of scrolling and swiping I have to do. 

Google placing conversations near the top is nice in theory, but it leaves out people I interact with on apps like Twitter, Instagram and email. I prefer to address Twitter and Instagram alerts sooner than messages, so Google’s ranking isn’t my favorite. You can prioritize specific chats, but only if they’re already coming from supported messaging apps. If you hate clutter like I do, you’ll be disappointed to learn that there’s no way to disable these section headers.

Media and other device controls

Another change that Android 11 brings to your notifications shade is a new persistent media player in the Quick Settings panel. When you’re playing music or a video via a supported app like Spotify or YouTube Music, a dashboard appears above your notifications for quick access to controls. This is meant to make it easier to change your output device, whether it’s headphones, speakers, a TV or the phone itself. 

In general it’s effective but unnecessary. The player takes up two rows of space, pushing notifications down. And, honestly I found the lock screen controls more convenient. 

dims?image uri=https%3A%2F%2Fmedia mbst pub ue1.s3.amazonaws - Android 11 review: An incremental update that needs some polish

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

My early build of Android 11 continued to be a bit buggy here, with the player sometimes not showing up even though Spotify was streaming a banging KPop playlist. I started playing a show on HBO Max after pausing Spotify, but HBO did not take over the controls as I expected and music controls remained. This is on by default for media apps, so developer support shouldn’t be an issue. You can choose to hide the player when your media sessions are over, though I preferred to leave it on to resume playback whenever I wanted. 

It’s nice to have a space dedicated to playback controls instead of in a notification card like in Android 10, especially since the feature was a little finicky in the older software. But a lock screen version would still be easier to use since my phone is usually locked if I’m listening to music or casting a video and it’s faster to access the lock screen than the notifications shade.

With Android 11, Google is also trying to cram more controls into spaces that were previously underused such as the power button menu, which now shows devices connected to your network — like your smart lights, security cameras or speakers, in addition to your Google Pay cards. Oh and the shutdown and restart buttons, of course.

dims?image uri=https%3A%2F%2Fmedia mbst pub ue1.s3.amazonaws - Android 11 review: An incremental update that needs some polish

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

Each of your devices has its own tile, and one tap on them will turn them off or on.  There’s also a master control tile that can turn off all your lights at once, which is handy. The master switch is the first box you’ll see, but you can also rearrange all your devices to put your favorites higher up. 

I was dubious of this feature when I first tried it in the beta, because I thought it was easier to just tell my smart speaker to turn my lights on or off. But I’ve since come around, especially after I added my Chromecast to this page. It’s much easier to hold down the power button and immediately control all my devices than having to find the Google Home app and search for the specific speaker or TV I wanted to turn off. Those in large homes with many rooms and multiple gadgets connected to their network will very likely find this helpful, too. 

Privacy permissions and small interface tweaks 

Those were the most obvious updates, but there are some small, less noticeable tweaks too. Google handles screenshots a little differently in this iteration. They appear as a thumbnail in the bottom left corner after being captured, with options to share, edit or dismiss. Thank God the company has gotten rid of the notification after every. Single. Screenshot, which used to really clutter up the page. Also, when you’re viewing all your open apps, Android 11 will show options at the bottom of the screen to take a screenshot or select parts of the page.These two interface tweaks will only be available on Pixel devices.

Another imperceptible but important update is the ability to set one-time app permissions for things like location and camera access. This way, you can have greater control over what apps are following you in the background. Plus, if you haven’t used an app in a few months, its permissions will automatically reset and it will have to request access when you open it again. Obviously I haven’t used Android 11 long enough for that to happen yet, but I appreciate it in theory.

dims?image uri=https%3A%2F%2Fmedia mbst pub ue1.s3.amazonaws - Android 11 review: An incremental update that needs some polish

Google

Android 11 also added the option to show an extra row of apps at the bottom of your home screen for easier access to what Google thinks you use most often. It’s similar to the suggestions already available at the top of the app drawer, but is pretty redundant. Most users already place their most frequently used apps on their home page. When I enabled this, Google showed me stuff like Spotify, Telegram, Instagram and Netflix, which were already sitting on the screen right above it. The good news is, you can choose not to enable this row and it’s not on by default.

There are some other small changes coming in Android 11 that will likely be more fruitful over time. For example, a new on-device visual cortex better identifies elements on the screen so those who use voice controls can navigate the interface more easily. It also works when you’re looking at your open apps and hit the “Select” option at the bottom — Google will highlight pictures, icons and texts on the screen and you can tap each one to share or save it or even use Lens to get more information.

Android Auto now works wirelessly to connect phones with compatible cars (though as a New Yorker with no vehicle I couldn’t test that). Also, new 5G app support means developers can check if you’re on a fast connection and bump up resolution for video streams or download higher quality game assets. 

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2 min read

Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you’ll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.

Getting your webpages to the top of Google search page results is absolutely crucial if you want to grow your business. More than 70 percent of organic search traffic goes to the first page, with the vast majority of that going to the first three listings. If you’re not ranking for the things your business does well, you’re very likely missing out on potential customers.

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Reporting on Ranking Changes with STAT’s Google Data Studio Connectors

Since Moz released the new Google Data Studio Connectors for STAT, you might be wondering how to best implement them for your reporting strategy. My colleagues at Path Interactive and I absolutely love how granular you can get with your reports in STAT, and finally having the ability to cleanly and effectively pull those reports into Data…

Since Moz released the new Google Data Studio Connectors for STAT, you might be wondering how to best implement them for your reporting strategy. My colleagues at Path Interactive and I absolutely love how granular you can get with your reports in STAT, and finally having the ability to cleanly and effectively pull those reports into Data Studio (the tool we use for our own reporting) is a godsend.

While the Historical Keyword Rankings connector reports on rank over time, it may not be as obvious how to report on rank change over time. In this post, I’ll give you step-by-step guidance on how to report on rank change — as well as a couple other filtering and reporting tips — while using the connectors within Google Data Studio.

If you aren’t a STAT user yet but you want to know how it might fit into your SEO toolkit, you can take a tour of the product. Click on the button below to set one up!

Learn More About STAT

Connecting your data source

Before you begin, you need to identify a few things to set up the connector: your STAT Keyword API Key, the Project ID, and your Site ID. If you don’t already know how to identify these via the STAT API, you can head over to STAT’s documentation here to learn more. After you’ve identified these, it’s time to connect your data source. 

We’re going to be doing something a little out of the ordinary here, but stay with me — you’ll see why in just a second!

For this step, we’ll be connecting two instances of the same source. Because our goal is to compare rank change over time, we’ll use the same source twice to identify those deltas.

When setting up your connector, be sure to name the source something that you’ll easily recognize:

5f4044143e4b52.30474344 - Reporting on Ranking Changes with STAT’s Google Data Studio Connectors

In my case, I usually go with something simple such as “[client name] STAT Keyword Connector.” When this is complete, repeat the step above, but name it something different, e.g. “[client name] STAT Keyword Connector 2.”

Finally, make sure the metrics you plan on comparing have unique names for each connector. To do so, go into your data source. Click on the metric’s name so that you can rename it, and then rename it something unique. For this case we’ll be doing it for “Google Base Rank,” since we’re comparing ranks, but it can also be done for “Google Rank,” if we wanted to compare that. Again, I like to just keep it simple: for the first data source call it “Google Base Rank 1,” and then for the second data source call it “Google Base Rank 2.” When all is said and done, it should look something like this:

5f404414f13161.30373478 - Reporting on Ranking Changes with STAT’s Google Data Studio Connectors

Building your table and blending data

Now we’ll start to get a bit more technical. Blending the data of the two connectors lets you compare two instances of rankings against each other. Your final result will produce a table showing the ranks of two given dates, as well as their rank change. The five-step process will look like this:

  1. Blend data of keyword connectors one and two
  2. Add in your common metrics for the two sources (keyword at the minimum, but you can also add in location, device, market, and search volume)
  3. Add in the metric you’d like reported (Google base rank and/or Google rank)
  4. Set date range
  5. Apply “No Null” filter

1. Blend data of keyword connectors one and two

    The first step here is to blend the two connectors so that you can compare two instances of ranks against each other. 

    First, you need to create a new report, or go into a report that’s already set up. Next, select your data source. Here you’ll select the first instance of the source that you set up earlier (if you’re starting on a fresh report, it’ll ask you to add a data source immediately). Once selected, click on “Blend Data” underneath the data source on the right hand side of Google Data Studio, seen here:

    5f404415a9e6e5.69683650 - Reporting on Ranking Changes with STAT’s Google Data Studio Connectors

    This will bring you to the Blend Data source tool. From here you select to add another data source, being your second instance of the connector.

    2. Add in your common metrics

      Once you’ve chosen to blend both connectors, you need to set your metrics. Towards the top, you’ll see “Join keys.” This is in reference to what’s going to be the same for both instances, so here at the minimum, you want to include “keyword.” Feel free to play around here with adding different metrics.

      Note: We’ll go over this later, but if you plan on having different graphs filtered by a certain tag or location, make sure to add these in here.

      3. Add in the type of rank you want reported

        After setting your metrics under “Join keys,” now select the metrics that will be unique for each date. Depending on what you want to compare, under “Metrics” you’ll pick “Google Base Rank,” “Google Rank,” or both. You may also include “Date” here too if you’d like. Once done, click on “SUM” next to the metric name, and change this to “MIN.” You’ll see why in just a moment.

        At this point, your blended data should look something like this:

        5f40441650d448.59653653 - Reporting on Ranking Changes with STAT’s Google Data Studio Connectors

        4. Set date range

          Now you need to set the two date ranges you’re comparing to each other. 

          To do this, under the first connection, set your first date: Under “Date Range,” click on “Custom,” then click on the field to select your date. Here you might see that there’s an option for two dates, but for this solution, we’re using the same date for each connector.

          In the end, it’ll be something like “Connector 1” selected for the “start date” and “end date” as the first of the month, and for “Connector 2,” the “start date” and “end date” will be the last of the month. This is essentially pulling in the rank for the first instance as well as the second instance, so you can compare the two.

          5. Set “No Null” filter

            The last step in setting up your blended data is creating a “No Null” filter. When the keyword connector reports on ranks that your site is not ranking for, it will return as “null.” To avoid flooding your data with fluff, you need to create a filter removing instances of “null.”

            First, click on “Add A Filter” below where you selected the date range. Next, towards the bottom, click on “Create A Filter.” Set the parameters of the filter as “Exclude” > “Google Base Rank 1 (2)” > “Is Null.” Be sure to name the filter something identifiable such as “No Null.” It should look like this:

            5f4044171e9797.49050791 - Reporting on Ranking Changes with STAT’s Google Data Studio Connectors

            Applying rank change to your report

            Now you can create a new field that will report on the rank change by making a calculated field to find the difference of the two ranks. 

            Under dimensions, select “Add Dimension,” and click on “Create Field.” You can name it “Rank Change,” but to create the field, start typing “Google Base Rank,” and you’ll see your instances from each connector come up. To make the calculated field, select your “Google Base Rank 1” and subtract it from “Google Base Rank 2,” so it should look something like this:

            5f404417ca5573.51289791 - Reporting on Ranking Changes with STAT’s Google Data Studio Connectors

            Hit apply, and now your rank change should be calculated!

            There is also an additional way to get the same result, but with a few drawbacks, such as not being able to name the header, as well as not being able to filter or sort your rank change. The benefit to this approach is that it’s easier to set up initially, as you don’t actually need to blend the data. However, not setting up the blended data will also forfeit having the initial rank visible. When in your edit view, set a custom date range that you’re reporting on under “Default date range.” Here, you can then set a comparison date: if looking back a month, you can set this to the first. If you go with this option, it should look like this:

            5f40441867f141.57604593 - Reporting on Ranking Changes with STAT’s Google Data Studio Connectors

            Head into the “Style” tab, where you can change the comparison to “Show Absolute Change” under “Metrics.” You can also change the colors of your positive and negative arrows to more accurately represent the movement (you can see from above that the “negative” change is a green arrow, this defaults to red).

            Using filters

            Applying filters to your data set can be extremely beneficial to making sense of your data! Using filters with the connector can help you segment out rankings for a particular location, or create charts that show rankings for a specific keyword group that you’ve set up using keyword tags. 

            Take a look at this report I set up as an example. Within STAT, I created keyword tags to target locations determined by what zip code they were. Then, I was able to create a filter for each chart targeting that keyword tag:

            5f40441932ed06.36525371 - Reporting on Ranking Changes with STAT’s Google Data Studio Connectors

            Setting filters up is extremely simple. First, go into edit mode. Next, scroll down the side until you find “Filter.” Then under Filter > Table Filter, click on “Add a Filter.” This will bring you to the filter picker. Toward the bottom, click on “Create a Filter.” Here you can set the parameters for the filter you’d like to show.

            Some of my other favorites include filtering to only show the top few pages (filters out non-relevant and high ranks), using the keyword tag filter like I showed before, and also filtering by location. But you don’t have to stop there! Adding in the additional dimensions available to you in the connector, you can use the filter to show things such as desktop vs. mobile or how your keyword ranking performance does in different markets.

            Blending your Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and STAT data

            One of my favorite uses for the connectors is the ability to blend the data with your Google Analytics and Google Search Console data. By blending this data together, you’re able to directly tie keyword rankings with different metrics, such as clicks or goal completions.

            You’re probably a pro at blended data at this point, but just for reference, the data blended should look like this:

            5f404419db10c9.22085621 - Reporting on Ranking Changes with STAT’s Google Data Studio Connectors

            A few things to note: it’s important what order you put the connectors in. I’ve found that adding the STAT connector first works best (i.e. if you put Google Analytics first, you’ll get a report with the infamous “not found” keyword). Additionally, to pull in Search Console data in order to match with your other connectors, using “Query” will have the same effect as “Keyword.”

            The result would look something like this, but feel free to edit the design how you wish!

            5f40441a7e4d44.96524905 - Reporting on Ranking Changes with STAT’s Google Data Studio Connectors

            Now you can go even further with this and match up URLs, but this will require some RegEx. 

            You’ll rename the “Google URL” field in STAT and “Landing Page” field in Google Search Console in order to match the URL structure convection within Google Analytics by taking out the domain portion of the URL. To do this, go into your data source for each STAT connector and Google Search Console, and click “Add A Field” in the top right.

            5f40441b229957.20617091 - Reporting on Ranking Changes with STAT’s Google Data Studio Connectors

            Next, enter to following RegEx for the STAT connector:

            REGEXP_REPLACE(Google URL, “.*[\.]com”, “”)

            And for Google Search console:

            REGEXP_REPLACE(Landing Page, “.*[\.]com”, “”)

            Remember to name them something to differentiate from the default field. I use “Landing Page (no domain).”

            When building a report, use these new fields for consistency across the URL structure so that, when you select them when blending data, they’ll match. 

            Use this method in the same way as above to get the desired results of pulling in data from across all three connectors to match up with each other! In the end you should be able to find what keyword ranks for what URL, as well as have many sessions or clicks that are brought in as well as goal completions, or any other combination.

            Well there you have it! Hope this was helpful to you. If you have any other questions you can comment below or find me on Twitter @ianpfister. Happy reporting!


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            Police Want Your Smart Speaker—Here’s Why

            In July 2019, police rushed to the home of 32-year-old Silvia Galva. Galva’s friend, also in the home, called 911, claiming she overheard a violent argument between Galva and her boyfriend, 43-year-old Adam Crespo. The two lived together in Hallandale Beach, Florida, about 20 miles from Miami.When officers arrived, Galva was dead, impaled through her…

            In July 2019, police rushed to the home of 32-year-old Silvia Galva. Galva’s friend, also in the home, called 911, claiming she overheard a violent argument between Galva and her boyfriend, 43-year-old Adam Crespo. The two lived together in Hallandale Beach, Florida, about 20 miles from Miami.

            When officers arrived, Galva was dead, impaled through her chest by the 12-inch blade at the sharp end of a bedpost. Police believe Crespo tried to drag Galva from their bed. She held onto the bedpost to resist, but the sharp end snapped, somehow killing her. Police charged Crespo with second-degree murder. He pleaded not guilty and was released on $65,000 bail, awaiting trial. In the months since the arrest, Crespo’s lawyer has presented a surprising piece of evidence in his defense: recordings from a pair of Amazon Echo speakers.

            “I had a lot of interviews where people said, ‘Oh, are you aware that this could be the first time Alexa recordings are going to be used to convict somebody of murder?’” says Christopher O’Toole, Crespo’s lawyer. “And I actually thought of it the opposite way, that this could be the first time an Amazon Alexa recording is used to exonerate somebody and show that they’re innocent.”

            When police and prosecutors collect smart home or speaker data, it’s typically used as evidence against suspects. The Hallandale Beach Police Department filed a subpoena for Crespo’s speakers, as they may have picked up audio of the argument Galva’s friend overheard.

            The incident shows the growing role of smart home devices and wearables in police investigations.

            In 2016, police in Bentonville, Arkansas, requested Amazon Echo data in connection with a man’s death, believed to be the first such request. Amazon initially tried to block the request, but later handed over the data. A murder charge against the defendant was later dropped, but speaker, smart home, and wearable data has figured into multiple cases since then.

            Earlier this month, Amazon said it had received more than 3,000 requests from police for user data in the first half of this year, and complied almost 2,000 times. That was a 72 percent increase in requests from the same period in 2016, when Amazon first disclosed the data, and a 24 percent jump in the past year alone.

            Amazon doesn’t provide granular data on what police are seeking, but Douglas Orr, head of the criminal justice department at the University of North Georgia, says police now look for smart home data as routinely as data from smartphones. Data on a smartphone often points officers towards other devices, which they then probe as the investigation continues.

            By amending a search warrant, police can “keep going to keep collecting data,” Orr says. “That usually leads to an Echo or at least some other device.”

            As Orr explains, officers are getting more savvy about smart home devices, creating templates that simplify requesting data. Police departments often share these templates, he says, tailoring requests for the specifics of the case they’re investigating.

            Google’s Nest unit reported increasing police demands for data from its smart speakers through 2018. Google then stopped reporting Nest data separately, including such requests in its broader corporate transparency report, which shows increased requests for Google user data.

            In their terms of service, most major apps and websites include a clause warning users that companies may hand over their data if requested by the government. Law enforcement agencies file subpoenas or search warrants for data, detailing to judges what evidence they expect to find on the devices and how it may serve the investigation. Amazon and Google both notify users of a request for data unless the order itself forbids it. Any number of entities can request user data, but the companies say they prioritize requests based on urgency.

            “Things like Homeland Security, they’re going to take high priority,” explains Lee Whitfield, a forensic analyst. “Other law enforcement requests will come in under that. And then things like divorce cases or civil cases, they have a lower ranking.”

            In an emailed statement, an Amazon spokesperson said the company “objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands” from law enforcement and referred WIRED to its policy on government requests. A Google spokesperson also referred WIRED to its updated policy on requests.

            Forensic experts tell WIRED that information from the devices is valued because it can offer a timeline of a person’s activities, their location, if they’re alone, and can verify statements made during questioning.

            “Usually the alibi you get is, ‘I was at home.’ Nobody can confirm that,” says Orr, the criminal justice professor. “So you ask, ‘Do you have a speaker?’”

            Orr has studied the types of data police can pull from smart speakers like the Amazon Echo. Voice clips are only the beginning, he says. Speakers keep time-stamped logs of user activity. Police can examine these logs to get a sense of what someone was doing around the time of an alleged crime.

            Consider a potential suspect who can’t prove where they were at 11 pm on a Thursday, because they live alone. Something as simple as ordering pizza through a speaker would show the time and location of the request and, if voice recognition is enabled, who made the request. “It might be benign information that someone was ordering a pizza, but it might also be an alibi for somebody,” Orr says.

            Police increasingly rely on wearables and smart devices to verify the claims people make during an investigation. Sometimes, the tools can reveal a lie.

            Heather Mahalik, a forensics instructor, recalls a Florida case in which a man killed his wife, then tried to impersonate her. The husband sent texts and Facebook messages from his wife’s phone in an attempt to blur the timeline of her disappearance. While the woman’s phone activity continued, her Apple Watch showed a sudden drop in heart rate activity that the husband claimed was due to a dead battery. Activity on the man’s phone synced perfectly with when he used the wife’s phone to post to Facebook. Her phone showed no activity except for when the husband picked it up to post, with timestamps matching his activity to the use of the wife’s phone.

            “We were able to tell from his device that he would pick up the phone, take 18 steps, and it corresponded with the time he posted a Facebook post,” Mahalik says.

            Connecting information from multiple devices is a common practice, analysts say. Information on one device can suggest evidence on another. This ability to string together discoveries leads to what another expert calls a phased approach to digital forensics.

            “They ask for something, the investigation moves along, they find something else interesting, and then they request the next thing,” says Whitfield, the forensic analyst.

            O’Toole, Crespo’s lawyer, says police subpoenaed Crespo’s social media accounts right away, then requested his voice recordings about four weeks later. Officers wrote in the search warrant that the speaker data may include “audio recordings capturing the attack on victim Silvia Crespo.”

            O’Toole says he intends to introduce the smart speaker recordings in his client’s favor. Via email, a spokesperson for Hallandale Beach Police confirmed the case was still active but did not provide further comment.

            O’Toole says smart speaker recordings are part of several cases he’s working on, including a divorce in which a woman subpoenaed data from a smart speaker that may have picked up the sounds of her husband with another woman.

            Whitfield says police are becoming more savvy about the information in the smart speakers’ activity logs. He recalls a case where police found drugs in a household with multiple residents. Officers identified a suspect after seizing data from a smart speaker. Its log not only listed recent queries related to drugs but identified who spoke them. Google and Amazon speakers let users create profiles so the devices recognize their individual voices. This information helped police identify the suspect.

            “I just don’t see this going away,” Whitfield says. “I think this is going to be more and more prolific as time goes on.”


            More Great WIRED Stories

            Ranking the 2020 SEC football schedules, from most- to least-difficult – AL.com

            The SEC released its 2020 football schedule on Monday night, which is good news in and of itself.However, not all 14 of the SEC schedules are created equal. Some teams got a relatively easy road, while some frankly got jobbed.As a refresher, here is the complete schedule in fancy helmet logo form (via SB Nation’s…

            The SEC released its 2020 football schedule on Monday night, which is good news in and of itself.

            However, not all 14 of the SEC schedules are created equal. Some teams got a relatively easy road, while some frankly got jobbed.

            As a refresher, here is the complete schedule in fancy helmet logo form (via SB Nation’s Nicholas Carr):

            With the caveat that all SEC schedules are inherently tough, here are the 2020 versions, ranked from most- to least-difficult:

            14. Arkansas: From the moment we found out the SEC was going to a 10-game, conference-only schedule, we had a feeling the Razorbacks might go 0-10. And then we saw the schedule. Arkansas opens with Georgia and closes with Alabama (albeit both at home). The Hogs also have Florida and LSU back-to-back in November. Worst of all, they don’t play Vandy.

            13. Missouri: The Tigers have about as rough a first five weeks as you can imagine, though at least they get Vanderbilt in Week 4. Trouble is, that game is crammed in between road games with LSU and Florida. And Mizzou also opens with Alabama and then travels to Tennessee. At least Georgia and Kentucky visit Columbia, and the ending two-game stretch of Arkansas and Mississippi State is winnable.

            12. South Carolina: The opener vs. Tennessee is as close to a toss-up as we’ll see in what is shaping up as a garbage Week 1, but if the Gamecocks lose that one, they’re almost certainly staring at 1-4. Week 3 vs. Vandy looks like a win, but you can’t say the same about road games at Florida (Week 2), Auburn (Week 4) and LSU (Week 5). Things lighten up a bit toward the end, but it might be too late by then.

            11. Vanderbilt: As with Arkansas, we figured the Commodores would be hard-pressed to win a game even before we saw the complete schedule. Vandy opens at Texas A&M and then hosts LSU, which is a near-guaranteed 0-2. The next two games, however, are their best shots at victories, South Carolina in Nashville and at Missouri. The finishing stretch of Florida, Tennessee and at Georgia is capital BR-utal, however.

            10. Ole Miss: Lane Kiffin’s Rebels play arguably three of the top five teams in the SEC in the season’s first five weeks, hosting Florida in Week 1 and Alabama in Week 3 and traveling to Auburn in Week 5. The season-ender at LSU will be no picnic either. At least the Egg Bowl is in Oxford.

            9. Texas A&M: After easing into the schedule with Vanderbilt in Week 1, the Aggies turn around and travel to Alabama, Florida and Mississippi State the next three weeks. The middle of the schedule is relatively soft, but ending with LSU and Auburn won’t be easy. Will A&M fans be able to stomach a 6-4 or 7-3 mark this year?

            8. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs are trying to install a new offense without having had spring practice, which is difficult enough. They open with defending national champion LSU in Baton Rouge, following by two more road games at Arkansas and Kentucky. State also plays at Alabama and Georgia, as well as arch-rival Ole Miss.

            7. Tennessee: The Volunteers have a very good shot at being 2-0 with South Carolina and Missouri out of the gate, but then things get difficult, with Georgia and Alabama in two of the three next weeks. In November, they play Texas A&M and Auburn from the West and end the season at home against Florida. At least they get Arkansas and Vanderbilt, too.

            6. Kentucky: The Wildcats will be a significant underdog at Auburn in Week 1, but should be on pretty even footing with four of their next five opponents — Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Missouri (Kentucky hosts Georgia in between the latter two). Back-to-back at Alabama and Florida in November is rough, though.

            5. LSU: The defending national champions have two of the toughest road trips in the SEC this year, playing at Florida and Auburn. Alabama is at home, however. And the Tigers open with three straight games (Mississippi State, at Vanderbilt, Missouri) in which they will be double-digit favorites, before the trip to Gainesville.

            4. Georgia: The Bulldogs get a veritable layup in Week 1 at Arkansas, but things get serious with Auburn coming to Athens in Week 2. Then come Tennessee and Alabama, so you certainly can’t say Georgia will have many emotional letdowns the rest of the way. Once they get past the neutral-site (but not really) game vs. Florida in Jacksonville on Nov. 7, the Bulldogs can coast the rest of the way with Missouri, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Vanderbilt to end the year. The Jacksonville game also means Georgia has only four true home games in 2020.

            3. Auburn: The bad news is that Auburn is one of the few teams in the SEC that does not have back-to-back home games at any point. The good news is that the Tigers’ toughest games — at Georgia in Week 2, vs. LSU in Week 6 and at Alabama in Week 10 — are spaced out pretty well. The danger is Tennessee in Week 9 and/or Texas A&M in Week 11 end up as “trap” games.

            2. Alabama: Get your conspiracy theories ready — the Crimson Tide is one of only two SEC teams that does not play back-to-back road games this season. Alabama also gets a bye week before LSU (as does LSU before Alabama). The toughest stretch is probably Georgia and Tennessee back-to-back in October. And it’s worth noting that Alabama’s schedule is by definition easier than some, simply because it doesn’t have “Alabama” on it.

            1. Florida: The Gators have a Charmin-soft schedule, with five true home games plus a neutral (but not really neutral) site game with Georgia. Florida doesn’t play Alabama or Auburn, with its toughest road trip probably to Texas A&M. After the Georgia game, the Gators finish with Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Tennessee. The last two might be competitive, but the Gators either completely avoid the SEC West heavy hitters, or get them out of the way early.

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            U.S. Justice Department going ‘full tilt’ on tech antitrust probe: official – Reuters

            WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department is moving “full-tilt” on its antitrust investigation of Alphabet Inc’s Google and other Big Tech platforms, the department’s second-ranking official told Reuters. FILE PHOTO: After the company announced it would extend its coronavirus work-from-home order until summer 2021, a Google sign is shown at one of the company’s…

            WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department is moving “full-tilt” on its antitrust investigation of Alphabet Inc’s Google and other Big Tech platforms, the department’s second-ranking official told Reuters.

            ?m=02&d=20200813&t=2&i=1529552745&r=LYNXNPEG7C1TY&w=20 - U.S. Justice Department going 'full tilt' on tech antitrust probe: official - Reuters

            FILE PHOTO: After the company announced it would extend its coronavirus work-from-home order until summer 2021, a Google sign is shown at one of the company’s office complexes in Irvine, California, U.S., July 27, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake

            Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen told Reuters in an interview this week at the department’s headquarters that he could not commit to a specific date by which the department would decide whether to bring an antitrust suit against Google.

            “We are going full-tilt. It’s a major priority,” Rosen said. “We have a great team working really hard to get on top of the documents, hearing from people in the industry and the like.”

            Rosen said the probe is not being driven by political factors. He said the goal is to act “as soon as possible” based on a review of the merits.

            “This is one of those issues that people from lots of different points of view are very concerned about,” he added. “I can’t tell you today what the date will be.”

            Numerous media outlets have reported the Justice Department is likely to file an antitrust complaint against Google. Attorney General William Barr told The Wall Street Journal in March he wanted the Justice Department to make a final decision on the Google probe this summer.

            Google spokeswoman Julie Tarallo McAlister said “while we continue to engage with ongoing investigations, our focus is firmly on providing free services that help people every day, lower costs for small businesses, and enable increased choice and competition.”

            State attorneys general have separate probes of Google, and the U.S. House Judiciary Committee has ongoing investigations of Google, Amazon.com Inc, Facebook Inc and Apple Inc. Many states are likely to join a federal antitrust lawsuit against Google, Reuters reported in June.

            The Justice Department said in July 2019 it was opening a broad investigation of major technology firms on whether they engage in anticompetitive practices.

            Rosen declined to say how quickly the government might resolve other tech probes, but noted there has been “some division of labor” with the Federal Trade Commission.

            Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Dan Grebler

            Google Was Caught ‘Redhanded’ in Genius Lyrics Theft, But Judge Lets It Slide

            Photo: Fabrice Coffrini (Getty Images)Last year, the song lyrics web service Genius sued Google alleging that the tech giant has been ripping off its transcriptions for display in its own lucrative search results. It seemed like an open-and-shut case. Thanks to some crafty watermarking, it appeared that Google was caught dead to rights in the…

            gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - Google Was Caught ‘Redhanded’ in Genius Lyrics Theft, But Judge Lets It Slide

            Photo: Fabrice Coffrini (Getty Images)

            Last year, the song lyrics web service Genius sued Google alleging that the tech giant has been ripping off its transcriptions for display in its own lucrative search results. It seemed like an open-and-shut case. Thanks to some crafty watermarking, it appeared that Google was caught dead to rights in the lyric thievery. But on Monday, the Copyright Act got in the way of Genius’s litigation dreams.

            After it began to suspect that Google was circumventing the need for anyone to visit its website, Genius decided to insert some digital watermarks in its lyrics including one that spelled out “redhanded” in Morse code. Those watermarks showed up in Google’s search results, and Genius Media Group proceeded to filed a complaint citing numerous examples of Google stealing its transcriptions. For its part, Google denied engaging in any scraping practices and pointed to the fact that it uses third parties to gather lyrics when they aren’t provided directly by the publisher. One of those third parties, LyricFind, was a co-defendant in Genius’s complaint, and it admitted in a blog post that it may have “unknowingly sourced Genius lyrics from another location.”

            Months later, the decision is in, and U.S. District Court Judge Margo Brodie has decided to dismiss the case altogether.

            Judge Brodie’s order doesn’t claim that Google isn’t guilty of pilfering Genius’s transcriptions; instead, it exposes the shaky legal ground of the lawsuit itself. The primary problem is that because Genius licenses the publishing rights to song lyrics, it can’t really claim that Google is violating its copyright. The issue that Genius is raising is that it spends a lot of money transcribing lyrics after it goes through the proper licensing channels. It believes that Google is stealing that money and labor through scraping.

            G/O Media may get a commission

            This is where a bunch of legal and jurisdictional crap came into play, and the bottom line is that Genius had to go with a claim that Google violated its terms of service.

            Judge Brodie wrote in her order that the Copyright Act, which is solely the jurisdiction of the federal courts, preempts any breach of contract claims and that what Genius is seeking to protect can be classified as a derivative work. The Judge writes that, “at its core, it is a claim that Defendants created an unauthorized reproduction of Plaintiff’s derivative work, which is itself conduct that violates an exclusive right of the copyright owner under federal copyright law.” Because the breach of contract claims are being made under New York common law and California statutory law, and Brodie finds that the Copyright Act preempts these specific claims, they are null and void.

            Genius also accused Google of engaging in unfair competition, another claim that at first appears to be a slam dunk. After all, most people searching for lyrics will go through Google first, and Genius hopes to be the search link that the user chooses to find all their p-word-packed Nicki Minaj lines. Search is incredibly important to Genius as it ironically demonstrated back in 2013 when it was penalized by Google for violating search guidelines in order to bump up Genius’s ranking.

            In Genius’s view, Google is stealing the clicks and the labor that went into making content for its website. But in Judge Brodie’s opinion, the Copyright Act still overrides the essential unfairness of the practices that have been alleged by Google.

            Does this mean that Genius has lost and Google is free to steal all the lyrics it wants? Not exactly. It just means that, in the court’s eyes, Genius failed to make a convincing legal argument for this particular course of attack. Genius did not immediately return Gizmodo’s request for comment. In place of a comment on the case, Google just pointed us to an old blog post from last year about how it sources lyric transcriptions.

            This isn’t the end of Genius, and Google has shown no intention of stealing lyrics in the future, at least not deliberately. But it does raise the question of whether some party might want to tempt the law and go full hog throwing up clones of Genius’s transcriptions. Based on the Monday ruling, that seems possible as long as the scummy hypothetical person doing it manages to get the proper publishing licenses—a thing that Genius famously did not do when it was first

            Google slams Australia’s proposed media law with an open letter to users

            Google Australia today published an open letter about the proposed News Media Bargaining Code on its homepage, telling users that the law could “force” it to provide them with a “dramatically worse Google Search and YouTube.” The open letter claims the proposed law will require Google to provide an unfair advantage to news media businesses…

            Google Australia today published an open letter about the proposed News Media Bargaining Code on its homepage, telling users that the law could “force” it to provide them with a “dramatically worse Google Search and YouTube.”

            The open letter claims the proposed law will require Google to provide an unfair advantage to news media businesses over everyone else. Large news media businesses will be able to use the information from Google to improve their search rankings over competitors, even if someone else provides a better result. Google says search data of its Australian users may also be at risk, as the law will force the search giant to tell news media businesses “how they can gain access” to its users’ data.

            You’ve always relied on Google Search and YouTube to show you what’s most relevant and helpful to you. We could no longer guarantee that under this law. The law would force us to give an unfair advantage to one group of businesses – news media businesses – over everyone else who has a website, YouTube channel or small business. News media businesses alone would be given information that would help them artificially inflate their ranking over everyone else, even when someone else provides a better result. We’ve always treated all website owners fairly when it comes to information we share about ranking. The proposed changes are not fair and they mean that Google Search results and YouTube will be worse for you.

            Responding to Google’s open letter, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released a statement saying the letter contains misinformation about the draft News Media Bargaining Code.

            Google will not be required to charge Australians for the use of its free services such as Google Search and YouTube, unless it chooses to do so.

            Google will not be required to share any additional user data with Australian news businesses unless it chooses to do so.

            The draft code will allow Australian news businesses to negotiate for fair payment for their journalists’ work that is included on Google services.

            This will address a significant bargaining power imbalance between Australian news media businesses and Google and Facebook.

            As part of its news licensing program, which was announced in June, Google had planned to team up with news publishers in Germany, Australia, and Brazil and pay them for their content. However, The *Financial Times now reports Google has decided to “pause” the program in Australia because of the proposed law.

            Have you listened to this week’s Android Central Podcast?

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            Travel startups cry foul over what Google’s doing with their data

            As the antitrust drumbeat continues to pound on tech giants, with Reuters reporting comments today from the U.S. Justice Department that it’s moving “full-tilt” on an investigation of platform giants including Google parent Alphabet, startups in Europe’s travel sector are dialing up their allegations of anti-competitive behavior against the search giant. Google has near complete…

            As the antitrust drumbeat continues to pound on tech giants, with Reuters reporting comments today from the U.S. Justice Department that it’s moving “full-tilt” on an investigation of platform giants including Google parent Alphabet, startups in Europe’s travel sector are dialing up their allegations of anti-competitive behavior against the search giant.

            Google has near complete grip on the search market in Europe, with a regional market share in excess of 90%, according to Statcounter. Unsurprisingly, industry sources say a majority of travel bookings start as a Google search — giving the tech giant huge leverage over the coronavirus-hit sector.

            More than half a dozen travel startups in Germany are united in a shared complaint that Google is abusing its search dominance in a number of ways they argue are negatively impacting their businesses.

            Complaints we’ve heard from multiple sources in online travel range from Google forcing its own data standards on ad partners to Google unfairly extracting partner data to power its own competing products on the cheap.

            Startups are limited in how much detail they can provide on the record about Google’s processes because the company requires advertising partners to sign NDAs to access its ad products. But this week German newspaper Handelsblatt reported on antitrust complaints from a number of local startups — including experience booking platform GetYourGuide and vacation rental search engine HomeToGo — which are accusing the tech giant of stealing content and data.

            The group is considering filing a cartel complaint against Google, per its report.

            We’ve also heard from multiple sources in the European travel sector that Google has exhibited a pattern of trying to secure the rights to travel partners’ content and data through contracts and service agreements.

            One source, who did not wish to be identified for fear of retaliation against their business, told us: “Each travel partner has certain specialities in their business model but overall the strategy of Google has been the same: Grab as much data from your partners and build competing products with that data.”

            Not OK, Google

            This is now a very familiar complaint against Google. Crowdsourced reviews platform Yelp has been accusing the tech giant of stealing content for years. More recently, Genius got creative with a digital watermark that caught Google redhanded scraping lyrics content from its site which it pays to license (but Google does not). As Lily Allen might put it, it’s really not okay.

            Last month’s congressional antitrust subcommittee hearing kicked off with exactly this accusation too — as chair David Cicilline barked at Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai: “Why does Google steal content from honest businesses?” Pichai dodged the question by claiming he doesn’t agree with the characterization. But for Google and parent Alphabet there’s no dodging the antitrust drumbeat pounding violently in the company’s backyard.

            In Europe, Google’s business already has a clutch of antitrust enforcements against it — starting three years ago, in a case which dated back six years at that point, with a record-breaking penalty for anti-competitive behavior in how it operated a product search service called Google Shopping. EU enforcements against Android and AdSense swiftly followed. Google is appealing all three decisions, even as it continues to expand its operations in lucrative verticals like travel.

            The Commission’s 2017 finding that Google is dominant in the regional search market carried what lawmakers couch as a “special responsibility” to avoid breaching the bloc’s antitrust rules in any market in which Google plays. That finding puts the travel sector squarely in the frame, although not yet under formal probe by EU regulators (although they have opened an active probe of Google’s data collection practices, announced last year).

            EU regulators are also examining a range of competition concerns over its proposed acquisition of Fitbit, delaying the merger while they consider whether the deal would further entrench Google’s position in the ad market by giving it access to a trove of Fitbit users’ health data that could be used for increased ad personalization.

            But so far, on travel, the Commission has been keeping its powder dry.

            Yet for around a decade the tech giant has been building out products that directly compete for travel bookings in growth areas like flight search. More recently it’s added hotels, vacation rentals and experiences — bringing its search tool into direct competition with an increasing range of third-party booking platforms which, at least in Europe, have no choice but to advertise on Google’s platform to drive customer acquisition.

            One key acquisition underpinning Google’s travel ambitions dates back to 2010 — when it shelled out $700 million for ITA, a provider of flight information to airlines, travel agencies and online reservation systems. The same year it also picked up travel guide community, Ruba.

            Google beat out a consortium of rivals for ITA, including Microsoft, Kayak, Expedia and Travelport, which relied on its data to power their own travel products — and had wanted to prevent Google getting its hands on the data.

            Back then travel was already a huge segment of search and online commerce. And it’s continued to grow — worth close to $700 billion globally in 2018, per eMarketer (although the coronavirus crisis is likely to impact some recent growth projections, even as the public health crisis accelerates the industry’s transition to digital bookings) — all of which gives Google huge incentive to carve itself a bigger and bigger share of the pie. 

            This is what Google is aiming to do by building out ad units that cater to travelers’ searches by offering flights, vacation rentals and trip experiences, searchable without needing to leave Google’s platform. 

            Google defends this type of expansion by saying it’s just making life easier for the user by putting sought for information even closer to their search query. But competitors contend the choices it’s making are far more insidious. Simply put, they’re better for Google’s bottom line — and will ultimately result in less choice and innovation for consumers — is the core argument. The key contention is Google is only able to do this because it wields vast monopoly power in search, which gives it unfair access to travel rivals’ content and data.

            It’s certainly notable that Alphabet hasn’t felt the need to shell out to acquire any of the major travel booking platforms since its ITA acquisition. Instead, its market might allow it to repackage and monetize rival travel platforms’ data via an expanding array of its own vertical travel search products. 

            One of the German consortia of travel startups with a major beef against Google is Berlin-based HomeToGo. The vacation rentals platform confirmed to TechCrunch it has filed an antitrust complaint against the company with the European Commission.

            It told us it’s watched with alarm as Google introduced a new ad unit in search results which promotes a vacation rental search and booking experience — displaying property thumbnails, alongside locations and prices plotted on a map — right from inside Google’s platform.

            Screenshot 2020 08 14 at 15.23.10 - Travel startups cry foul over what Google’s doing with their data

            Screengrab showing Google vacation rental ad unit, populated with content from a range of partners

            Discussing the complaint, HomeToGo CEO and co-founder, Dr Patrick Andrae, told us: “Due to the monopoly Google has in horizontal search, just by having this kind of access [to the vast majority of European Internet searchers], they’re so top of the funnel that they theoretically can go into any vertical. And with the power of their monopoly they can turn on products there without doing any prior investment in it.

            “Anyone else has to work a lot on SEO strategies and these kind of things to slowly go up in the ranking but Google can just snap its fingers and say, basically, tomorrow I want to have a product.”

            The complaint is not just that Google has built a competing ad product in vacation rentals but — following what has become a standard colonizing playbook for seemingly any vertical area Google sees is grabbing traffic — its packaging of the competing product is so fully featured and eye-catching that it results in greater prominence for Google’s ad versus organic search results (or indeed paid ad links) where rivals may appear as plain-old blue links.

            “They create this giant, colorful super CTA [call-to-action], as we call it — this one-box thing — where everything is clickable and leads you into the Google product,” said Andrae. “They explain that it’s better for the user experience but no one ever said that the user wants to have a one-box there from Google. Or why shouldn’t it be a one-box from HomeToGo? Or why shouldn’t it be a one-box in the flight world from Kayak? Or in the hotel world from Trivago? So why is it just the Google product that’s colorful, nice, and showing up?”

            Andrae argues that the design of the unit is intended to give the user the impression that “Google has everything there,” on its platform. So, y’know, why go looking elsewhere for a vertical search engine?

            He also points out that the special unit is not available to competitors. “You cannot buy it,” he said. “So even if you would like to have this prominent kind of placement you cannot buy that as a third-party company. Even if you would like to pay money for it — I’m not talking about being in the product itself, that’s another topic — but just having the same kind of advertisement, because it is what they do — they advertise their own product there for free — and this is our complaint.”

            Pay with your data

            In 2017, when the Commission slapped Google with the first record-breaking penalty over its search comparison service — finding it had systematically given prominent placement to its own comparison shopping service over and above rival services in organic search results — competition chief Margrethe Vestager disclosed it had also received complaints about Google’s behavior in the travel sector.

            Asked about the sector’s concerns now, some three years later, a Commission spokeswoman told us it’s “monitoring the markets concerned” — but declined to comment on any specific gripes.

            Here’s another complaint: GetYourGuide, a Berlin-based travel startup that’s created a discovery and booking platform for travel tours and experiences, has similar concerns about Google’s designs on travel experience booking — another travel segment the tech giant is moving into via its own eye-catching ad units flogging experiences.

            “They want to create experience products now directly on Google search itself, with the aim that ultimately people can book these type of things on Google,” said GetYourGuide CEO and co-founder Johannes Reck. “What Google tries to do now is they try to get [travel startups’] content and our data in order to create new competitive products on Google.”

            The startup is unhappy, for example, that a “Things to do” ad product Google shows in its search results doesn’t link to GetYourGuide’s own search page — which would be the equivalent and competing third party product.

            “Google will not allow us to link them into our search but only into the details page so the customer sees even less of our brand,” he said. “Or in Maps, for instance, if you go to Eiffel Tower and press to book tickets you don’t see any of GetYourGuide despite us fulfilling that order.”

            He also rejects Google’s claim against this sort of complaint that it’s simply “doing the right thing for the user” by not linking them out to the rival platform. “We do know from our data that users convert better and spend more time on our site and have higher engagement rates when we link them into our search and then deeper down into the funnel,” he told TechCrunch. “What Google is saying is not that it serves the user — it serves Google and it serves their profits. Because the deeper down the funnel that you link, the user will either buy or they will bounce back to Google and search for the next product. If you link into searches — if you don’t verticalize as much — then the user will end up in a different ecosystem and might not bounce back to Google.”

            “As a partner [of Google] you have limited choice to participate [in its ad products]. You do need to give Google that content and then Google will try to move as many of the customers to them,” Reck added. “I don’t think there ever will be a world where booking.com or Expedia or GetYourGuide will disappear — rather our brands will start to disappear.

            “That is something that I think ultimately is bad for the customer and only serves Google, again, because the customer will, in the long run, have no other choice and no other visibility on how he can get to choice than to go through Google because our brands will basically be hidden behind a Google wall. That will turn Google firmly away from what their original mission was… to steer people to the most relevant content on the web… Now they are trying to be completely the opposite; they’re trying to be the Amazon or Alibaba of travel and try to keep and contain people in their ecosystem.”

            During the congressional antitrust subcommittee hearing last month Pichai claimed Google faces fierce competition in travel. Again, Reck contends that’s simply not true. “In Europe more than 75% of travelers go to Google to search for travel and all those users are free,” he said. “Everyone else in the travel industry pays Google top dollar… for these queries. Which competition exactly is he referring to?”

            “[Pichai] then claimed that they’re not leveraging partners’ content — that’s not accurate. If you look at Google if you want to be in the top results these days you either pay or you give them data so that they can build their own products into search.”

            “This dates back 10 years now when they acquired ITA software, which is the leading data provider for flights,” Reck added. “They’ve just paved their way into travel. I think their intent is very clear at this point that they have no interest in their partners — or their customers for that matter, who like the choice that’s being offered on Google.

            “What they want to morph into, basically, is to turn Google into the Amazon of travel where everyone else may be a content provider or a fulfillment agent but the consumer has no choice but to go through Google. I think that is the key intent here. They want to limit consumer choice. And they want to monopolise the space. We don’t want that and we will fight that. And if that means we need to go to the EU Commission to protect our and the customers’ interests then we’ll do that and we’re currently reviewing that option.”

            The looming harm for consumers around reduced choice could manifest in poorer customer service, which is an area vertical players tend to focus on — whereas Google, as a platform funnel, does not.

            Another German travel startup — Munich-based FlixBus — was also willing to go on the record with concerns about the impact of Google’s market power on the sector, despite not being in the same position as its business is not an aggregator.

            Nonetheless, FlixBus founder and CEO Jochen Engert called on regional lawmakers to act against what he described as Google’s “systematic abuses” of market dominance.

            “We call on the politicians in Germany and the EU to now work for fair competition on the internet. It must be forbidden that monopolistic companies like Google abuse their market power, especially in times of crisis, and prevent competition for the benefit of the customer due to their dominance,” he told us. “Google systematically abuses its dominant market position to seal off access to customers from competitors and gets away with it time and again. It is only a matter of time before other industries and business models, in addition to travel, hotel and flight bookings, are permanently threatened.

            “For FlixMobility [FlixBus’ parent company] as an internationally positioned market leader with its own platform, technology and our unique content, the situation is more relaxed than for smaller startups or those which also aggregate content such as Google. Nevertheless, in our opinion Google should be obliged to list and market its own products in search results on an equal footing with comparable offers. Here regulation must not stand by and watch for too long, but must react before Google irretrievably controls customer access and excludes competition.”

            GetYourGuide’s Reck expressed hope that German lawmakers might be able to offer more expeditious relief to the sector than the European Commission — whose competition investigations typically grind through the details for years.

            “The German government is actually very alert at this point in time,” he said. “They’re currently working on a new competition legislation that they will put in place probably within the next six months. It’s already in the making — and that will also be addressed to exactly that type of behavior of global, quasi-monopolistic platforms crossing the demarcation line, moving into other fields and trying to leverage their monopoly in order to create synergies in adjacent fields and crowd out competition.”

            Asked what kind of intervention he would like to see regulators make against Google, Reck suggests its business should be regulated akin to a utility — advocating for controls on data, including around the openness of data, to level the playing field.

            Though he also told us he would be supportive of more radical measures, such as breaking Google up. (But, again, he says speed of intervention is of the essence.)

            “If you look at all of the data that Google collects, whether that’s consumer reviews, availability from its partners, all of the content from its partners, all of the information that they have through Android, whether that’s geo-specific data, whether that is interests, whether that is contextual information, Google is training their algorithms day and night on this data, no one else can. But we all have to provide data to Google,” he said.

            “That’s not a level playing field. We need to think about how we can have a more open data architecture, that obviously is compliant with our data privacy laws but where developers from anywhere can build products based on the Google platform… As a developer in travel it’s currently very hard for me to access any data from Google so I can build better products for consumers. And I think that really needs to change — Google needs to open us for us to create a more vibrant and competitive ecosystem.”

            “At a national or EU level we need to have an updated legal code that allows for quick interventions,” Reck added, saying competition enforcement simply can’t carry on at the same pace as for the markets of the past. “Things are moving way too quickly for that. You need to take a completely new approach.

            “As Google correctly pointed out consumer prices have fallen but falling consumer prices is the weapon in tech; offering products for free allows you to gain market share in order to crowd out competition, which again leaves less choice for the customer, so I think we need to think about how we think about tech and platforms in new ways.”

            The Commission is currently consulting on whether competition regulators need a new tool to be able to intervene more quickly in digital markets. But there’s more than a trace of irony that its adherence to process means further delay as regulators question whether they need more power to intervene in digital markets to prevent tipping, instead of acting on longstanding complaints of market abuse attached to the 800-lb gorilla of internet search — with its “special responsibility” not to trample on other markets.

            Reached for comment on the travel startups’ complaints, a Google spokeswoman sent us this statement:

            There are now more ways than ever to find information online, and for travel searches, people can easily choose from an array of specialized sites, like TripAdvisor, Kayak, Expedia and many more. With Google Search, we aim to provide the most helpful and relevant results possible to create the best experience for users around the world and deliver valuable traffic to travel companies.

            During the pandemic, we’ve been working hard with our partners in the travel industry to help them protect their businesses and look toward recovery. We launched new tools for airlines so they can better predict consumer demand and plan their routes. For hotels, we expanded our ‘pay per stay’ program globally to shift the risk of cancellation from our partners to us. And we’ve updated our search products so consumers can make informed decisions when planning future travel, further reducing the risk of cancellation.

            The company did not respond to our request for a response to claims we heard that it seeks to secure rights to partners’ content and data via contracts and service agreements.

            No relief

            In another sign of the growing rift between Google and its travel partners in Europe, German startups in the sector banded together to press it for better terms during the coronavirus crisis earlier this year — accusing the tech giant of being inflexible over payments for ads they’d run before the crisis hit. This meant they were left with a huge hole in their balance sheets after making mass refunds for travelers who could no longer take their planned trip. But the gorilla wasn’t sympathetic, demanding full payment immediately.

            Asked what happened after TechCrunch reported on their concerns at the end of April, Reck said Google went silent for a few weeks. But as soon as the travel market started picking up in Germany — and GetYourGuide decided it needed to start advertising on Google again — it reissued the demand for full payment.

            GetYourGuide says it was left with no choice but to pay, given it needed to be able to run Google ads.

            Reck describes the recovery package Google offered after it made the payment as “a Google recovery package” — as it was tied to GetYourGuide spending a large amount on YouTube ads in order to get a small discount.

            The offer would recoup only a “fraction” of GetYourGuide’s original losses on Google ads during the peak of the COVID-19 crisis, per Reck. “YouTube obviously is not where we lost the money. We lost the money in search where we had high-intent customers, Google customers that wanted to come and shop. So that to us was [another] slap in the face,” he added.

            Google says Australian antitrust law would hit small content creators – Reuters

            FILE PHOTO: A Google logo is shown at one of the company’s office complexes in Irvine, California, United States, July 27, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File PhotoSYDNEY (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google on Monday said a proposed antitrust law in Australia forcing tech firms to pay for news that appears on their social media websites would…

            ?m=02&d=20200817&t=2&i=1529860792&r=LYNXNPEG7G03D&w=20 - Google says Australian antitrust law would hit small content creators - Reuters

            FILE PHOTO: A Google logo is shown at one of the company’s office complexes in Irvine, California, United States, July 27, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

            SYDNEY (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google on Monday said a proposed antitrust law in Australia forcing tech firms to pay for news that appears on their social media websites would adversely impact individual content creators and channel operators.

            Google said the law proposed last month would help big media firms artificially inflate their search ranking, luring more viewers to their platforms and giving them an unfair advantage over small contributors running their own websites or YouTube channels.

            Google’s YouTube video service allows individuals and companies to create channels featuring advertisements that create revenue for both them and YouTube.

            The U.S. tech giant said the law may also obligate it to give big news firms confidential data about systems that they could use to try to appear higher in rankings on YouTube, resulting in fewer views for content of smaller businesses.

            “This law wouldn’t just impact the way Google and YouTube work with news media businesses – it would impact all of our Australian users,” Google Australia Managing Director Mel Silva said in a post titled “Open letter to Australians”.

            Australia at the end of July said it aimed to introduce the law this year requiring technology companies such as Google and Facebook Inc (FB.O) to pay media companies for news content.

            Media companies’ share of advertising revenue has plummeted in the internet age. For every A$100 ($71.93) spent on online advertising in Australia, excluding classifieds, nearly a third goes to Google and Facebook, government estimates showed.

            The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the country’s competition watchdog, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

            Reporting by Renju Jose; Additional reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Christopher Cushing

            Google says Australian antitrust law would hit small content creators – Reuters India

            FILE PHOTO: A Google logo is shown at one of the company’s office complexes in Irvine, California, United States, July 27, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File PhotoSYDNEY (Reuters) – Internet giant Google on Monday criticised proposed Australian antitrust laws, saying its free search service would be “at risk” and users’ personal data could be shared if it…

            ?m=02&d=20200817&t=2&i=1529870254&r=LYNXNPEG7G03F&w=20 - Google says Australian antitrust law would hit small content creators - Reuters India

            FILE PHOTO: A Google logo is shown at one of the company’s office complexes in Irvine, California, United States, July 27, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

            SYDNEY (Reuters) – Internet giant Google on Monday criticised proposed Australian antitrust laws, saying its free search service would be “at risk” and users’ personal data could be shared if it is made to pay news organisations for their content.

            The Alphabet-owned company said the proposed laws would also help big media companies artificially inflate their search rankings, luring more viewers to their platforms and giving them an unfair advantage over small publishers and users of Google’s YouTube streaming website.

            The statement, advertised on Google’s main search page, marks an escalation of tensions between big tech companies and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) which has called for sweeping changes to rein in how Google and social media titan Facebook Inc use local content and consumer data.

            “You’ve always relied on Google Search and YouTube to show you what’s most relevant and helpful to you,” Google Australia Managing Director Mel Silva wrote in the open letter. “We could no longer guarantee that under this law.”

            The proposed law “wouldn’t just impact the way Google and YouTube work with news media businesses – it would impact all of our Australian users” she wrote.

            The ACCC accused Google of publishing “misinformation” and said the laws would not require the U.S. company to charge Australians for its services or share any personal data.

            The proposed law would “allow Australian news businesses to negotiate for fair payment for their journalists’ work that is included on Google services”, ACCC chair Rod Sims said in a statement.

            “This will address a significant bargaining power imbalance between Australian news media businesses and Google and Facebook,” he added.

            ($1 = 1.3902 Australian dollars)

            Reporting by Renju Jose; Additional reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Lincoln Feast.

            Best smart displays for 2020: Ranking Amazon, Google and Lenovo smart displays – CNET

            Thanks to coronavirus lockdowns, voice assistants are getting more use than ever before. In fact, Amazon says Alexa use has quadrupled in the past two years — and voice assistants are getting smarter all the time. Add the visual and touch elements of smart displays, and you’ve got an incredible (and often affordable) entry point into…

            Thanks to coronavirus lockdowns, voice assistants are getting more use than ever before. In fact, Amazon says Alexa use has quadrupled in the past two years — and voice assistants are getting smarter all the time. Add the visual and touch elements of smart displays, and you’ve got an incredible (and often affordable) entry point into smart home tech.

            Yes, the smart display industry has flourished in recent years, with the Amazon Echo Show 8 and the Google Nest Hub (formerly the Google Home Hub) at the forefront of the screen wars. It makes sense why there are almost a dozen smart displays on the market: They’re a great combo made up of the always-listening voice assistant (like a smart speaker) and a touchscreen for watching videos, controlling your smart home devices, adding things to your to-do lists and more. The Google Nest Hub Max even adds in a face-tracking camera that can display personalized bits of information whenever it recognizes you.

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            There are plenty of considerations that go into which smart display is right for you. Do you want one that offers video chat and video calling? Or that connects with Amazon’s Alexa or the Google Home app? Does it need to be able to control your smart light bulbs and smart plugs? Is audio performance a factor (in case you need music for a dance party)? These are all factors that you should keep in mind.

            If you’re looking to upgrade your current smart speaker, or you’re just starting your smart home and you find the touchscreen appealing, here are the best smart displays available now. We’ll update this list periodically.

            Read more: Google Nest Hub wins CNET’s Editors’ Choice

            google home hub 15 - Best smart displays for 2020: Ranking Amazon, Google and Lenovo smart displays - CNET

            Chris Monroe/CNET

            You can often find the Nest Hub (formerly called the Google Home Hub) on sale for $100 or less, making it an affordable entry point for the category. It’s also the smartest and best overall, making the lower price even more appealing. 

            Thanks to the built-in Google Assistant, the Nest Hub responds to all of the same voice commands as the Google Home Mini smart speaker. The touchscreen is a little small at 7 inches, but the adaptive brightness makes pictures look particularly great. Google will even customize a slideshow of family pics as your screensaver.

            You can also control your smart home devices, like your smart doorbell, with an intuitively designed control panel. Unlike most of the other smart displays (and unlike its new big brother, the Nest Hub Max), the Nest Hub doesn’t have a camera, but that might be a bonus if you have privacy concerns and want to put it on your bedside table. The colorful fabric design allows the device to blend in anywhere, though the touchscreen comes in particularly handy if you want step-by-step help through a recipe in the kitchen.

            Read our Google Nest Hub review.

            echo show 8 3 2 - Best smart displays for 2020: Ranking Amazon, Google and Lenovo smart displays - CNET

            Chris Monroe/CNET

            With the Show 8, Amazon’s Alexa will respond to your voice control and voice commands, plus you can use the screen to play games, browse recipes, watch movies and Prime Video trailers, control your smart home and more. The 8-inch screen is small enough to stay out of the way, but big enough that you won’t have to squint. It also includes a physical camera shutter for privacy.

            In addition to the usual tricks, Amazon included its recent sunrise alarm feature, which helps ease you out of your sleep with a screen that starts getting brighter 15 minutes before your scheduled wake-up time. You can watch new how-to videos, or make a video call with a tap. 

            Google Assistant still makes better use of the touchscreen than Amazon — in particular, the cooking directions and smart home controls are better — but the Echo Show 8 is close enough if you’re already invested in Alexa, and it actually has a camera for video chatting, which the Nest Hub doesn’t. In short, the Show 8 is Amazon’s best smart display yet.

            Read our Amazon Echo Show 8 review.

            lenovo smart display 18 - Best smart displays for 2020: Ranking Amazon, Google and Lenovo smart displays - CNET

            Chris Monroe/CNET

            If you want a 10-inch touchscreen powered by Google Assistant, the Lenovo Smart Display looks elegant and features the same smarts as the Nest Hub. Lenovo actually offers three different models with 10, 8 and 7 inch screens. The 10-inch $250 smart display has a bamboo back that’s particularly well suited for the kitchen.

            The Lenovo Smart Display was actually the first smart display to debut with Google Assistant built-in and it’s still one of the best. You still get Google’s smart-home control panels and recipe guides, plus the Lenovo display has a camera for video calls and a physical shutter to cover it if you want privacy.

            Read our Lenovo Smart Display review.

            Smart displays let Amazon, Facebook, Google show you answers to your questions


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            Smart display comparison


            Best overall Best Alexa display Best full-sized display

            Google Nest Hub Amazon Echo Show 8 Lenovo Smart Display 10 inch/8 inch
            Cost $129 (£119, AU$199) $100 $250
            Screen Size 7-inch (177.8 mm) 8-inch (203.2 mm) 10.1-inch (256.5 mm)
            Resolution not listed 720p (1280 x 800) 1080p (1920 x 1200)
            Dimensions (WxHxD) 7.02×4.65×2.65 inches (178.5x118x67.3 mm) 7.9×5.4×3.9 inches (200.7×137.2×99.1 mm) 6.8×12.3×0.5 to 5.4 inches(173.87×311.37×12.5 to 136.02 mm)
            Weight 1.1 lbs. (480 grams) 2.29 lbs. (1038 grams) 2.6 lbs. (1,200 grams)
            Wireless Connectivity Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n/ac, 2.4GHz and 5GHz), Bluetooth 5.0 Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n/ac, 2.4GHz and 5GHz), Bluetooth Wi-Fi (802.11ac, 2.4GHz and 5GHz), Bluetooth
            Voice Assistant Google Assistant Alexa Google Assistant
            Calling and Messaging Direct dial (US, UK, and Canada, outgoing calls only), video calls with Google Duo Alexa Messaging, Skype, direct dial (US and Mexico) Direct dial (US, UK, and Canada, outgoing calls only), video calls with Google Duo
            Smart kitchen features Step-by-step recipe assistance with YouTube tutorial videos Food Network GO; Step-by-step recipe assistance; Amazon Meal Kits integration Step-by-step recipe assistance with YouTube tutorial videos
            On-screen smart home controls Yes Yes Yes
            Built-in Camera No Yes (1MP) Yes (5MP)
            Privacy Shutter n/a Yes Yes
            Microphones 2-mic array 2-mic array 4-mic array (2 front, 2 rear)
            Speakers Full range speaker (80 dB SPL @ 1KHz, @ 1m) 2x full range 2-inch 10W speakers 1.75-/2-inch 10W full range speaker, 2x passive tweeters
            Streaming Music Services iHeartRadio, Pandora, Spotify, YouTube Music Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn iHeartRadio, Pandora, Spotify, YouTube Music
            Streaming Video Services YouTube, YouTube TV, Google Play Movies, CBS All Access, HBO Now Amazon Prime Video, NBC, Vevo YouTube, YouTube TV, Google Play Movies, CBS All Access, HBO Now
            Compatible smart home cameras D-Link, EZVIZ, Nest Cam, Netgear Arlo, Skybell Video Doorbell, Smartcam, Swann, TP-Link Kasa Cam, Vivitar Amazon Cloud Cam, Amcrest, August Doorbell Cam, Blink, Canary, D-Link, EZVIZ, Logitech Circle, meShare, Nest Cam, Netgear Arlo, Ring Video Doorbell, Toucan, TP-Link Kasa Cam, Wyze Cam, Zmodo D-Link, EZVIZ, Nest Cam, Netgear Arlo, Skybell Video Doorbell, Smartcam, Swann, TP-Link Kasa Cam, Vivitar
            Other notable features Ambient EQ automatic adaptive screen brightness; Digital picture frame via Google Photos with Live Albums; Live TV with YouTube TV; Send directions to your phone or chosen recipes from your phone to the display; Digital Wellbeing mode for parental restrictions and downtime hours Sunrise alarms. Customizable clock faces. Customizable alarm tones. YouTube access via Silk or Firefox browsers Live TV with YouTube TV; Send directions to your phone or chosen recipes from your phone to the display; Digital Wellbeing mode for parental restrictions and downtime hours
            Color options Charcoal, Aqua, Chalk, Sand Charcoal, Sandstone Bamboo
            Availability US, UK, Australia and 12 others US, UK, Australia and 7 others US only
            Expected ship date Available now Available now Available now
            Warranty 1-year 1-year 1-year

            The rest

            Google Nest Hub Max: At $229, the Nest Hub Max ups the Google Assistant’s screen size from 7 to 10 inches and offers better sound quality than before. The real story, however, is the addition of a sophisticated camera that can track movements and gestures, or identify faces to show you personalized info on the screen. It’s an impressive combination of hardware and software, but it comes with privacy concerns. For most people, we think the original, camera-free Nest Hub is a lot closer to the smart display sweet spot.

            Amazon Echo Show 5: The Echo Show 5 is the cheapest of Amazon’s displays, and it features most of the perks of the Show 8. Its resolution is lower than the Show 8 and its screen is smaller. While it features a tap-to-snooze alarm feature that makes it perfect for a bedside alarm, its sound quality isn’t close compared to its bigger siblings.

            Amazon Echo Show (second gen): The original Echo Show helped popularize the smart display back in 2017 and the current second-gen Show improved on it in every way with better design, sound quality and a more useful screen. It’s a good premium counterpart to the attractive $90 entry point of the Echo Show 5. The second-gen Show has great sound quality and a 10-inch screen. The touchscreen just isn’t as useful as similar models with Google Assistant.

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            Facebook Portal: The $180 Facebook Portal makes great video calls. It can track and follow any individual in frame so you can move freely as you talk. Otherwise, it has Alexa built-in, but it isn’t as smart as the rest. Of course, Facebook has recently faced numerous privacy scandals, so putting one of its cameras in your home takes a big leap of faith.

            Lenovo Smart Clock: This $50 smart alarm trims out a lot of the functionality of smart displays. There’s no camera and you can’t watch videos. You can customize alarms and scroll through screens with weather and commute info. Thanks to a recent update, you can also look at personal pics and the Smart Clock will scroll through selected albums from Google Photos as your screensaver. It’s cute and tailored for your nightstand, but it’s more of an upgraded alarm clock than a full smart display.