Groupon – Well that didn’t go well. Groupon’s ads were apparently intended to poke fun at celebrities taking on causes, or something, but they came off as convoluted bordering on offensive and there was a huge backlash on Twitter. The goal here was to introduce Groupon to the mainstream, and unfortunately it’s not the best first impression they could have made. The CEO of Groupon posted a statement about how they weren’t trying to belittle these causes, that the ads are intended to raise money for these causes, that Groupon actually started as a way to raise funds for charities and that they were really spoofing themselves The big debate on the web now is who screwed up more – Groupon, or Kenneth Cole – that company posted a tweet about how the people protesting in Egypt were doing so because they wanted a look at the company’s latest clothing line, which was seen as incredibly crass, and they had to apologize for it straight away.
Consumerist – Were Groupon’s Super Bowl Ads Tasteless?
Groupon.com – Our Super Bowl Ads, and How We’re Helping These Causes
Daily What – Poor Form, Kenneth Cole
Egypt and the Web – We’ve talked about how some tech and media companies are essentially being forced into awkward positions by events in Egypt and around the world. During the protests in Iran, when there was so much talk about Twitter playing a role, the sites and companies didn’t move too far in one direction or the other, but here, we’re seeing some companies taking a real activist stance. Google set up a feature by which Egyptians cut off from web access could send Tweets over the phone. Twitter even wrote out a sort of manifesto about how freedom of expression is at the core of what they do, and how they’re having outside groups review their practices to make sure they’re only removing posts that are really worth removing. On the other side, Facebook has kept a much lower profile on Egypt, other than making some boilerplate statements about how internet access must be respected. And all of the above is in contrast to what we’ve seen in a lot of situations, where, for example, cell phone companies have agreed to give governments open access to users’ text messages in exchange for being allowed to operate in those countries.
Search: terrible? – There’s been talk about how Google search results aren’t what they used to be, that there are usually two or three useful sites and 25 copycat sites that are mostly ads. Google announced recently it’s tweaking its algorithm to try to play down the copycat sites and bump up the good ones. There’s an industry built around gaming Google search results, so this isn’t simply Google falling down on the job; time will tell whether they can get the job done.
In the meantime, I’ve been keeping my eye on a couple new approaches to search, just to see how the world looks beyond Google and Bing and the other big players. There’s a new search engine I like called DuckDuckGo, which seems to be aiming for what Google originally was, an effective, no-frills search engine that finds the websites you want. DuckDuckGo is also playing up their commitment to privacy – their slogan is something like “Google tracks you, we don’t.” The web search does seem to keep pace with the big engines, though it doesn’t offer its own searches for image or multimedia. That’s a big part of the way we search now, so it’s definitely a drawback. But it’s still early going, and what they do have so far looks promising.
Another interesting new site is QWiki, which is really more an alternative to Wikipedia than Google. It gathers up information about a particular topic and presents it not as a text-based webpage, but as an interactive multimedia presentation, with photos, sound, links and more. Still very, very early going – we’ll have to see whether this is a useful function for users or not, but it’s a creative new approach.
The Next Web – Alternative search engine Qwiki is now open to the public
Is Bing copying Google? – Google ran a sting operation that it says proves that Bing is modifying its search results. Microsoft, which owns Bing, says that they’re not copying, that they’re using a number of sources including Google as an ongoing tweak to their search results. All I know is that when I search for baby name websites on either site, I get a lot of sites that are no help. So work on that for me, folks.
Search Engine Land – Google: Bing Is Cheating, Copying Our Search Results
New Scientist – Google claims Bing is copying its search results
Big cool web projects – The Google Art Project is getting the most publicity, bringing artwork from major international museums onto the web in high-resolution. But there are several other projects worth mentioning, too. Google is working with Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Israel, to digitize the Shoah, put hundreds of thousands of videos and photos and recollections online. And the Kennedy library has put its contents on the web. If the web is the real repository of human knowledge, then it makes perfect sense to add these huge amounts of historic information to the web.
ReadWriteWeb - Google Partners with Yad Vashem to Digitize the Shoah
Viral video of the week – Pro wrestlers hypnotized!