Archiv der Kategorie: Web

Google introduces an ad blocker to Chrome – Filtering – Censorship?

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Google will introduce an ad blocker to Chrome early next year and is telling publishers to get ready.

The warning is meant to let websites assess their ads and strip any particularly disruptive ones from their pages. That’s because Chrome’s ad blocker won’t block all ads from the web. Instead, it’ll only block ads on pages that are determined to have too many annoying or intrusive advertisements, like videos that autoplay with sound or interstitials that take up the entire screen.

Sridhar Ramaswamy, the executive in charge of Google’s ads, writes in a blog post that even ads “owned or served by Google” will be blocked on pages that don’t meet Chrome’s guidelines.

Instead of an ad “blocker,” Google is referring to the feature as an ad “filter,” according toThe Wall Street Journal, since it will still allow ads to be displayed on pages that meet the right requirements. The blocker will work on both desktop and mobile.

Google is providing a tool that publishers can run to find out if their sites’ ads are in violation and will be blocked in Chrome. Unacceptable ads are being determined by a group called the Coalition for Better Ads, which includes Google, Facebook, News Corp, and The Washington Post as members.

Google shows publishers which of their ads are considered disruptive.

The feature is certain to be controversial. On one hand, there are huge benefits for both consumers and publishers. But on the other, it gives Google immense power over what the web looks like, partly in the name of protecting its own revenue.

First, the benefits: bad ads slow down the web, make the web hard and annoying to browse, and have ultimately driven consumers to install ad blockers that remove all advertisements no matter what. A world where that continues and most users block all ads looks almost apocalyptic for publishers, since nearly all of your favorite websites rely on ads to stay afloat. (The Verge, as you have likely noticed, included.)

By implementing a limited blocking tool, Google can limit the spread of wholesale ad blocking, which ultimately benefits everyone. Users get a better web experience. And publishers get to continue using the ad model that’s served the web well for decades — though they may lose some valuable ad units in the process.

There’s also a good argument to be made that stripping out irritating ads is no different than blocking pop ups, which web browsers have done for years, as a way to improve the experience for consumers.

But there are drawbacks to building an ad blocker into Chrome: most notably, the amount of power it gives Google. Ultimately, it means Google gets to decide what qualifies as an acceptable ad (though it’s basing this on standards set collectively by the Coalition for Better Ads). That’s a good thing if you trust Google to remain benign and act in everyone’s interests. But keep in mind that Google is, at its core, an ad company. Nearly 89 percent of its revenue comes from displaying ads.

The Chrome ad blocker doesn’t just help publishers, it also helps Google maintain its dominance. And it advantages Google’s own ad units, which, it’s safe to say, will not be in violation of the bad ad rules.

This leaves publishers with fewer options to monetize their sites. And given that Chrome represents more than half of all web browsing on desktop and mobile, publishers will be hard pressed not to comply.

Google will also include an option for visitors to pay websites that they’re blocking ads on, through a program it’s calling Funding Choices. Publishers will have to enable support for this feature individually. But Google already tested a similar feature for more than two years, and it never really caught on. So it’s hard to imagine publishers seeing what’s essentially a voluntary tipping model as a viable alternative to ads.

Ramaswamy says that the goal of Chrome’s ad blocker is to make online ads better. “We believe these changes will ensure all content creators, big and small, can continue to have a sustainable way to fund their work with online advertising,” he writes.

And what Ramaswamy says is probably true: Chrome’s ad blocker likely will clean up the web and result in a better browsing experience. It just does that by giving a single advertising juggernaut a whole lot of say over what’s good and bad.


Amazon will continue to invest heavily in India     Inc.     will     continue      investing  heavily  in  India,  the  chief   of its local operations said, dispelling  concerns of slower spending by the  US  e-commerce  company  after  its   chief financial officer Brian Olsavsky  said that while the India investments  were  starting  to  show  results,  they   had   hit   margins,   contributing   to    lower-than-expected  results  in  the   third quarter. “Not   at   all,”   Amazon’s   India   chief    Amit  Agarwal  said  in  an  interview   on   Monday   when   asked   whether    Amazon       would       slow       down        investments     in     India.     Amazon,      which  initially  said  it  would  invest   $2  billion  in  India,  had  said  in  June   that it would invest an additional $3  billion in the country. That investment is on track, Agarwal  said,  adding  that  the  company  is   “excited  about  the  momentum  that   we see in India”. “India is very early in its e-commerce  trajectory. Amazon is very early in its  e-commerce  trajectory  in  India.  To   transform how India buys is going  to take a long time; it will take a lot  of investment and… for many years.  This is just the beginning.” Amazon is betting big on its Prime  service in India and expects the  loyalty programme to dominate  sales in the coming months. “Prime continued to be the top seller  in all of October, not just for wave  one (of the Great Indian Festival).  Prime membership continues to  be a top seller and it is going to be  so going forward every month. My  belief is that Prime membership will  be the top seller every month based  on the trends that we are seeing,”  said Agarwal. On Monday, Amazon also said that  it witnessed record numbers during  its month-long Diwali sale event,  the Great Indian Festival, with sales  jumping 2.7 times from last year. This year’s Diwali sale has proven  to be the biggest showdown in the  history of Indian e-commerce, with  Amazon India and rival Flipkart  going all out to woo shoppers. While Flipkart claimed to outsell  Amazon India during the first leg of  the sale season, Amazon claims it  came back strongly during the latter  half of the sale season, with bigger  discounts in key categories such as  smartphones and large appliances. “October this year for us was 2.7  times of last year’s October—which  is incredible because last year was  4 times the October before,” said  Agarwal, adding that this growth  came even as “conversations”  suggested growth in India’s  e-commerce business was going to  be flat. Agarwal said that October could be  an inflection point for e-commerce  in India. “We had categories from  phones to Amazon Fashion to  appliances growing three to 11  times; even newer categories such  as luxury and beauty grew 46 times;  grocery and everyday consumables,  7.1 times; furniture, 11.8 times; gold  jewellery, eight times—so a lot of  these categories are showing robust  growth.” Agarwal said that 70% of the  company’s new customers in  October came from tier-II and tier-III  cities, adding that it was confident  of carrying the momentum from its  Diwali sale well into November and  December. Mint couldn’t independently verify  the numbers, but, in general,  all e-commerce marketplaces  (including Snapdeal, Amazon and  Flipkart’s smaller rival) did well in  October, carrying forward their  momentum from their annual sales. “When I look at the gaps between  the waves, our growth rates in those  gaps continued to the same extent.  We’re growing at 150% year-over- year. At peacetime, the growth rate  is still what I’m telling you. And as  we exit out of wave three (the third  sale event in October), we don’t see  a slowdown,” Agarwal said. “The broader e-commerce story is  not just a Flipkart-Amazon battle. Of  course, both Flipkart and Amazon  are trying to get a fair share of the pie  in key categories such as electronics,  fashion and large appliances. And  despite drags on margins, nobody is  going to reduce investments in India.  What you will see, however, is that  they will focus on innovation. For  example, during the festive season,  smartphone sales shot up and a lot  of the sales jumped due to things  like product exchanges. Another  new innovation was something like  Amazon Prime. So, you’ll see a lot of  that going forward,” said Sreedhar  Prasad, partner-e-commerce at  KPMG

The tyranny of messaging and notifications

Welcome to Mossberg, a weekly commentary and reviews column on The Verge and Recode by veteran tech journalist Walt Mossberg, now an Executive Editor at The Verge and Editor at Large of Recode.

Up until just a few years ago, I got around 350 emails a day, which presented me with an exhausting, time-consuming daily task that I grumbled about plenty. Now, because of social media and messaging services, that number has been cut by more than half. But things are actually worse.

These days, messages come at me from so many directions that it’s incredibly distracting and even harder to deal with. Friends, co-workers, business acquaintances and strangers contact me on multiple siloed services, which can signal subtle shades of immediacy or weight. And when I have to reach someone with something important and time-sensitive, I often wind up resorting to two or more similar but independent pathways, because I’m never sure which one will be likelier to work, since he or she is under a similar assault.

And then there are the notifications, ever-present on every operating system on every device. Sure, you can fine tune or even silence them with some work (more on that later), but most people don’t, or don’t know how, or feel they don’t dare. Notifications are supposed to save you time, but often they wind up doing the opposite.

Many mornings, it’s common for the lock screen of my iPhone and the right-hand side of my Mac’s screen to be jammed with notifications about „news“ I don’t care about, messages whose relevance has come and gone overnight, tips on birthdays of people I’m not close to, reminders of meetings I’m not attending, and warnings of traffic tie-ups on roads I don’t use. The signal-to-noise ratio is very poor, and gets only marginally better during the work day.

The confusion will only grow

And this weird, mixed-up communications structure is about to get more complex, because U.S. tech companies — following a strong trend in Asia — are turning messaging from a service into a platform, with supposedly intelligent bots and assistants and apps built into them. Apple is beefing up iMessage. Facebook is beefing up Messenger. Google, which has been behind in messaging, is launching two new platforms: Allo for text and images and emojis, and Duo for videos.

Maybe these bots and assistants and apps will be a means to controlling and focusing your messaging and communications, but that would be a hard, tricky job. More likely, I fear, they will just spew more messages and notifications they think — wrongly — you care about.

Alongside the race for consumer loyalty among these giants, there’s a parallel race to become the new-style internal messaging system for companies. In the lead so far is Slack, an unthreaded, sometimes chaotic series of chat rooms which my employer, Vox Media, uses, and which claims to be the fastest-growing business application on the market. Microsoft and others are trying to catch up. Slack is just another thing you have to keep up with.

I don’t know about you, but I expect to be pretty cautious about committing to Google’s new Allo service, once I’ve tried it out. Other new services inspire similar caution. All due respect to the smart folks at Google, but I’m just not sure I can handle yet another messaging service in my life.

Stop! Attention thief!

Sometimes, I yearn for the old days of email dominance (I can’t believe I typed those words). Why? Because despite the spam, you could be pretty sure you were good if you just checked it a few times a day, since most people used it as their primary means of written communication and they usually didn’t expect an immediate response.

A text, or short internet message, on the other hand, seems to demand instant attention, and may even lead to a whole thread of conversation. This can sometimes be delightful or enlightening, but it takes you away from the moment — from your thinking, reading, working. It steals your attention at a time of the sender’s choosing.

Even social network posts can act like this. You might be succeeding — for a while at least — in staying away from Facebook or Twitter while you work on a project or think through a problem. But then somebody acts on one of your posts, or even on a post you merely commented on, and boom! There’s a notification nagging at you. This happened to me as I was writing this column, because I forgot to kill notifications for awhile.

And, of course, a tweet or Facebook post can spawn a whole, sometimes heated, conversation that’s hard to ignore, even if you’re not browsing your whole feed for news or amusing GIFs.

The rabbit holes are everywhere, and it’s too easy to fall down them.

Dumb and dumber

One reason for the messaging overload, especially when it comes to notifications, is that too many apps just have no idea what’s relevant to you, or don’t care. For instance, I signed up for a local text alert service to get notified of things like dangerous storms on the way or bad road conditions, But I’m on the verge of shutting it off because it floods me with texts about anything worse than a fender bender on roads I never travel. It knows nothing about my driving habits and offers no way to teach it. Then, it compounds the distraction by texting me again when the irrelevant traffic tie-up is cleared.

Starbucks notifies me when I’m near one of its branches where I buy a lot of coffee. But the notification remains on my Apple Watch long after I’ve left the vicinity of that store. CVS notifies me of sales, when I really don’t care and I only wanted to know if my prescription is ready.

And to make some of these apps smarter, I might have to give up more of my personal information, which is a dangerous balance — especially when dozens of these apps start asking for it.

The big solution?

It would be nice if, like most email services, these major and forthcoming messaging services could somehow interoperate in the same client of your choice, so they could all somehow learn your preferences and you could use a single scheme of settings and preferences to control their behavior (maybe you could „snooze“ them) and their notifications. But that seems highly unlikely.  Palm’s webOS operating system had a feature something like this called Synergy, but it’s defunct.

So the big fix to this is probably up to the makers of the operating system platforms. They permit and control the notifications, at the least. They could create more and better user tailoring and learning that could be shared by all messaging services. But the problem, of course, is that the two big mobile OS makers, Apple and Google, are also deeply enmeshed in the messaging wars.

The small, available solution

So, what can you do? Well, you can be like me and vow to stick with one or two messaging services, turn off all notifications when need be, and, at times, when it really matters, put your mobile devices into airplane mode for an hour here and there, even on the ground.

Or, you could carefully tweak your notifications on iOS and Android. For instance, if you have an iPhone, you could open your Notification settings and go through the long list of apps you own, decide if you want notifications from each, and then, if so, what types of notification (sounds? lock screen snippets? A badge? one of two types of banners?)

And then, you could dive into the preferences on Facebook and Twitter, and quiet the notifications that stem from threads in which you are involved.

This might do the trick, but, if you’re a power user, it’s a daunting task. It’s like that vow you make, but never keep, to devote a bunch of time to paring down your list of Facebook friends.

A shorter, simpler list of steps outlined here should help.

But none of the excitement and energy around messaging as a new platform will go anywhere if managing the flow of messages is more trouble than they’re actually worth.

You can make the walled garden very very sweet, but the jungle outside is always more appealing in the long term.

Transformers  event

As fragile as paper is, written documents and records have long provided historians with a wealth of insight about that past that often helps shape the present. And they don’t need any special technology to read them. Cerf himself points to historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s 2005 bestseller Team of Rivals, which she based on the diary entries and letters of Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet members. The book influenced how President Obama shaped his own cabinet and became the basis for the Steven Spielberg film Lincoln. In short, old records are important. But as Cerf’s own email obsolescence shows, digital communications quickly become unreadable.

Don’t believe it? What would you do right now if you wanted to read something stored on a floppy disk? On a Zip drive? In the same way, the web browsers of the future might not be able to open today’s webpages and images–if future historians are lucky enough to have copies of today’s websites at all. Says Cerf, “I’m concerned about a coming digital dark ages.”

That’s why he and some of his fellow inventors of the Internet are joining with a new generation of hackers, archivists, and activists to radically reinvent core technologies that underpin the web. Yes, they want to make the web more secure. They want to make it less vulnerable to censorship. But they also want to make it more resilient to the sands of time.

The Permanent Web

Today, much of the responsibility for preserving the web’s history rests on The Internet Archive. The non-profit’s Wayback Machine crawls the web perpetually, taking snapshots that let you, say, go back and see how WIRED looked in 1997. But the Wayback Machine has to know about a site before it can index it, and it only grabs sites periodically. Based on the Internet Archive’s own findings, the average webpage only lasts about 100 days. In order to preserve a site, the Wayback Machine has to spot it in that brief window before it disappears.

What’s more, the Wayback Machine is a centralized silo of information—an irony that’s not lost on the inventors of the Internet. If it runs out of money, it could go dark. And because the archives originate from just one web address, it’s relatively easy for censors, such as those in China, to block users from accessing the site entirely. The Archive Team–an unrelated organization–is leading an effort to create a more decentralized backup on the Internet Archive. But if Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle, Cerf, and their allies who recently came together at what they called the Decentralized Web Summit have their way, the world will one day have a web that archives itself and backs itself up automatically.

Some pieces of this new web already exist. Interplanetary File System, or IPFS, is an open source project that taps into ideas pioneered by the decentralized digital currency Bitcoin and the peer-to-peer file sharing system BitTorrent. Sites opt in to IPFS, and the protocol distributes files among participating users. If the original web server goes down, the site will live on thanks to the backups running on other people’s computers. What’s more, these distributed archives will let people browse previous versions of the site, much the way you can browse old edits in Wikipedia or old versions of websites in the Wayback Machine.

“We are giving digital information print-like quality,” says IPFS founder Juan Benet. “If I print a piece of paper and physically hand it to you, you have it, you can physically archive it and use it in the future.” And you can share that copy with someone else.

What would you do right now if you wanted to read something stored on a floppy disk? On a Zip drive?

Right now IPFS is still just a tool the most committed: you need to have IPFS’s software installed on your computer to take part. But Benet says the team has already built a version of the software in JavaScript that can run in your browser without the need to install any new software at all. If it winds up on everyone’s browsers, the idea goes, then everyone can help back up the web.

Unlike the early web, the web of today isn’t just a collection of static HTML files. It’s a rich network of interconnected applications like Facebook and Twitter and Slack that are constantly changing. A truly decentralized web will need ways not just to back up pages but applications and data as well. That’s where things get really tricky–just ask the team behind the decentralized crowdfunding system DAO which was just hacked to the tune of $50 million last week.

The IPFS team is already hard at work on a feature that would allow a web app to keep trucking along even if the original server disappears, and it’s already built a chat app to demonstrate the concept. Meanwhile, several other projects– such as Ethereum, ZeroNet and the SAFE Network—aspire to create ways to build websites and applications that don’t depend on a single server or company to keep running. And now, thanks in large part to the Summit, many of them are working to make their systems cross-compatible.

Why Bother?

Even if the web winds up in a new, better of digital archive, plenty of problems still remain. Today’s web isn’t just a collection of static HTML files; it’s dynamic apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Slack. The operating systems and hardware of the future might not be able to read or run any of those. The same holds true for videos, photos, maybe even text.

Many efforts are afoot to right those weaknesses. But why bother?

‚We are giving digital information print-like quality.‘

After all, if anyone really cares about a specific file or site, can’t they just transfer the files to newer media and convert the most important files to newer formats? The problem with that line of thinking, Cerf says, is that people often don’t always know what’s important right away. For example, sailors have kept meticulous records of weather and temperatures in locations all over the world for centuries. That sort of information probably seemed useless, the sort of thing geeks of old preserved out of a vague sense of historical purpose. But guess what: climate scientists may find all that weather data very valuable. (The Old Weather project is now hard at work digitizing those old ship logs.)

Still: some websites just shouldn’t last forever. Does anyone in the future really need to see old drunken college photos or inadvisable Facebook rants? Meanwhile, activists and law enforcement are trying to stop web publishers from posting nude photos of people without their consent–a practice known as “revenge porn.” These same preservation tools that could make it harder for governments to censor the web could make it harder for people to scrub content from the web that shouldn’t be there anyway. People like Snapchat for a reason.

‚The walled garden is very sweet. But the jungle outside is always more appealing.‘

Cerf suggests possible technical workarounds to this problem. Web publishers, for example, could specify whether other people can automatically archive their sites. Bennet says the IPFS team has been considering a feature that would enable the original publisher of a page to un-publish it by sending a beacon to all other servers hosting a page asking for its removal. The IPFS servers could also host blacklists to remove copyrighted material. Still, those blacklists themselves become a reminder of the things we’re trying to forget.

But the biggest problem facing the decentralized web is probably neither technical or legal. And that’s getting people to care in the first place. At a time when people spend most of their time in closed-off platforms like Facebook and Snapchat, so much of what humans digitally produce stays locked up anyway. Bringing people back to the open web is going to mean creating user experiences that are fun enough and easy enough to persuade people to venture out of the confines of today’s app-centric

But Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the original web, isn’t worried. After all, the open web already beat out walled gardens with names like America Online, Compuserve, and Prodigy. “You can make the walled garden very very sweet,” Berners-Lee said at the summit. “But the jungle outside is always more appealing in the long term.”

The Inventors of the Internet Are Trying to Build a Truly Permanent Web

Diane Greene, the woman Google acqui-hired in November to transform its fragmented cloud business

The first thing to understand about Diane Greene, the woman Google acqui-hired in November to transform its fragmented cloud business, is that she has the mind of an engineer.

Cool technology, elegantly designed and built, lights her up. Even her jokes tend to be geek oriented.

A lifelong competitive sailor, she was a mechanical engineer who built boats and windsurfers before she became an iconic Silicon Valley computer scientist.

The second thing to understand about her is that she hates the limelight.

While she’s fine with standing on stage talking about all the cool things Google is building for their new target customer, big companies, she prefers not to talk about herself.

In fact, she’s so ego-free, her office at Google’s Mountain View, California, headquarters is just a tiny windowless room, big enough to hold an ordinary desk and two chairs.

Diane GreeneBusiness InsiderDiane Greene.

Before she took the job, Google had been building products and pursuing business customers in a sort of hodgepodge way. Its Google for Work unit had Google Apps, Chromebooks, and an assortment of other products like videoconferencing.

It had poached Amit Singh from Oracle a few years back to help turn Google Apps into a more professional business unit, capable of taking on Microsoft Office. He had hired salespeople and created a support organization. (He’s since moved on to work for Google’s young virtual-reality unit.)

But Google for Work wasn’t working very closely with Google’s nascent cloud-computing business, running under Urs Hölzle.

That unit included a huge cadre of people running Google’s data centers (600 computer-security experts alone, for instance), but only a small separate sales force.

In the seven months since Greene came in that’s changed. She:

  • hired experienced enterprise sales and support personnel.
  • created the office of the CTO, which handles the technical questions, design, or customization of large customer needs.
  • created units that focus on specific industries, because an agriculture firm has different needs than a retailer.
  • created programs for getting more „reseller“ partners on board, the small consultants who will sell and support Google’s cloud to smaller customers, offering niche services.
  • created a Global Alliance program for working with big global partners.

„So these are all new,“ Greene tells us.

Now all the teams are working together. „We all get together once a week, we share and discuss and debate,” she says. „It wasn’t possible before I came because sales and marketing were in a different division than cloud. And cloud was in a different division than Apps. I feel like the structure is in place now and we’re hiring very aggressively.”

Hölzle wooed her to the job

Greene made her name as cofounder of VMware, with her famous Stanford professor husband, Mendel Rosenblum. VMware has gone on to become a giant tech company. She left the VMware CEO role about eight years ago, after EMC bought it.

Google Urs HolzleGoogle+Urs Hölzle.

Until taking this Google job, she was quietly doing her own thing, raising her kids, advising and angel investing in startups (many of which did spectacularly well), and serving on a few boards, including Google’s board since 2012. She was under the radar but still highly and widely respected, the queen of enterprise computing.

She was also working on a new startup, Bebop Technologies, until Google bought it for $380 million when it hired her. Greene’s take was $149 million, and she and her husband dedicated that money to charity.

Hölzle, the engineer who famously built Google’s data centers and runs the technical side of the cloud business, is Greene’s partner.

He believes that within a few years, Google’s cloud business can be bigger than its ad business. That’s a big goal: Google currently makes the vast majority of its $75 billion in annual revenue from ads.

Hölzle is the one who talked Greene into taking this job as they hung out walking their dogs together.

„Through being on the board, I got to know Urs and started working with him informally,“ Greene says.

„We knew we needed an overall business leader. He’s a brilliant person and fun to work with. He really wanted to me to do it. I just realized, wow, partnering with Urs, we can really do this, with the backdrop of Google which is just this amazing company,“ she says.

A new phenom

Google has placed itself at the center of one of the biggest, newest trends happening in the enterprise market. Some people call this trend digital transformation. But it’s more than just automating manual processes or turning paper forms into iPad apps.

cowsFlickr/Amanda Parsons

More and more, the IT departments at large companies have started treating their tech vendors as partners that help them cocreate the tech they need.

“This is new for me. I’ve never been in the enterprise where your customers are your partners. It was always, you had customers and you had partners. But almost every customer of a certain size is a partner. It’s going both ways now,“ Greene says.

She points to one customer, Land O’Lakes, as an example.

Land O’Lakes is probably best known for its butter and dairy products. It took crop and weather data from Google and worked with Google to build an app hosted on Google’s cloud. The app helps its farm and dairy co-op members improve their crop yields.

“It’s fun for us to help them do that,” she says. Unlike the old days, where an IT company would be the one to build the app and sell it to agriculture companies, “we don’t have to do it ourselves.”

‚More and more‘

This idea of partnering with customers is the key to her strategy.

google photos california mountainsTim Stenovec/Business InsiderGoogle Photos understand the image in the photo.

„For me, this is such a revolution,“ she says. „Everything is changing now that we are in the cloud in terms of sharing our data, understanding our data using new techniques like machine learning.“

Google’s competitive strength, Greene believes, is the breadth of the tech it can offer an enterprise.

Enterprise-app developers can tap into things like Maps, Google’s computer-vision engine (the tech that powers Google Photos), weather data, and language/translation/speech recognition. They can build apps on top of Google’s Calendar, documents, spreadsheet and presentation apps.

And, under Greene’s new integrated organization, they can even tap into the tech that powers Google’s ads or YouTube, search, or its many other services.

„And we’re going to have more and more,“ she says.

When a company can take its own data and combine it with all of Google’s technology and Google’s data, „there’s just huge possibilities,“ she says.

google chromebook play store android appsGoogle

Greene will tell you, „We’re the only public cloud company with all of that.“

When pointing out that Microsoft also offers a computer vision API, translation services, and APIs for Office 365, and that IBM also offers weather data and language services, and so on, Greene’s got a comeback ready.

“We have Chromebooks.”

Well, Microsoft has Surface.

“But Chromebooks can run all the Android apps, are totally secure, they have administration … and they have a nice keyboard,“ she laughs.

In fact, Greene says, “I only use a Chromebook now. I never thought I could do that but I love it.”

She’s watching Amazon

In truth, she’s not laser-focused on overtaking Microsoft, widely considered the No. 2 cloud player, with Google trailing behind.

google cloud napkinGoogle

She, like all the cloud vendors, are looking at market leader Amazon Web Services, which is raking in the enterprise-cloud customers.

AWS is even convincing a growing number of them to shut down all of their data centers and just rent everything from AWS. This includes Intuit, the other company where Greene is a board member.

AWS is so successful it’s currently on track to do $10 billion in revenue this fiscal year, and it’s also Amazon’s most profitable business unit.

And it blows all the competition out of the water in the sheer number of features on its cloud, as well as its partner ecosystem.

So how is she going to beat Amazon? By offering better tech, she says.

“I’m a little biased but I really do think, on the hard stuff, we’re the world’s best cloud,” she says.

Diane GreeneGoogleDiane Greene

“I agree we have more features to do, although we have the basics for enterprise that you need. We have more partners to bring on, but we’re doing that very quickly. But the hard stuff, I do think we’re the world’s best.”

While Greene would not share the cloud unit’s growth numbers, she says that “growth is really good and we’re doing great stuff with some really big customers.“

She adds: „We’ve been moving customers to our cloud both from Amazon and on-prem.“

„On-prem“ means getting companies to move the apps they have running in their own computers on their own premises into Google’s cloud.

Google has even been engaging Amazon with its price-cut war, according to Greene. “They’ve been following our price cuts. We’ve been initiating them,” she says.

She jokes, „We should make a T-shirt: ‚the highest quality, lowest-cost cloud.'“


Mobile Carriers Are Working With Partners to Manage, Package and Sell Data



U.K. grocer Morrisons, ad-buying behemoth GroupM and other marketers and agencies are testing never-before-available data from cellphone carriers that connects device location and other information with telcos‘ real-world files on subscribers. Some services offer real-time heat maps showing the neighborhoods where store visitors go home at night, lists the sites they visited on mobile browsers recently and more.

Under the radar, Verizon, Sprint, Telefonica and other carriers have partnered with firms including SAP, IBM, HP and AirSage to manage, package and sell various levels of data to marketers and other clients. It’s all part of a push by the world’s largest phone operators to counteract diminishing subscriber growth through new business ventures that tap into the data that showers from consumers‘ mobile web surfing, text messaging and phone calls.

Morrison’s Credit: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

SAP’s Consumer Insight 365 ingests regularly updated data representing as many as 300 cellphone events per day for each of the 20 million to 25 million mobile subscribers. SAP won’t disclose the carriers providing this data. It „tells you where your consumers are coming from, because obviously the mobile operator knows their home location,“ said Lori Mitchell-Keller, head of SAP’s global retail industry business unit.

There is a lot of marketer interest in that information because it is tied to actual individuals. For the same reason, however, there is potential for resistance from privacy advocates.

WPP units such as Kantar Media and GroupM’s Mindshare have „kicked the tires“ for three years on Consumer Insight 365, testing and helping develop applications for the service, said Nick Nyhan, CEO of WPP’s Data Alliance. The extensive time spent so far partly reflects „high sensitivity to not doing something that would be too close for comfort from a consumer point of view,“ Mr. Nyhan said.

The service also combines data from telcos with other information, telling businesses whether shoppers are checking out competitor prices on their phones or just emailing friends. It can tell them the age ranges and genders of people who visited a store location between 10 a.m. and noon, and link location and demographic data with shoppers‘ web browsing history. Retailers might use the information to arrange store displays to appeal to certain customer segments at different times of the day, or to help determine where to open new locations.

„It used to be that this data was a lot harder to come by,“ said Ross Shanken, CEO of LeadID, a lead generation analytics firm. In a previous position at data firm TargusInfo 2008 and 2010 he nonetheless partnered with „a very large telco“ to validate names, addresses and phone numbers for data appending.

Too risky for the E.U.?
To protect privacy, SAP receives non-personally-identifiable, anonymized information from telcos, and only provides aggregated information to its clients to prevent reidentification of individuals. Still, sharing and using data this way is controversial. Nearly all the players exploring the burgeoning Telecom Data as a Service field, or TDaaS for short, are reluctant to provide the details of their operations, much less freely name their clients. And despite privacy safeguards, SAP is focused on selling its 365 product in North America and the Asia-Pacific region because it cannot get the data it needs from telcos representing consumers in the E.U., where data protections are stricter than in the U.S. and elsewhere.

But the rewards may outweigh the possible tangles with government regulators, consumer advocates and even squeamish board members.

The global market for telco data as a service is potentially worth $24.1 billion this year, on its way to $79 billion in 2020, according to estimates by 451 Research based on a survey of likely customers. „Challenges and constraints“ mean operators are scraping just 10% of the possible market right now, though that will rise to 30% by 2020, 451 Research said.

„If I was a CEO of any telecom operator in the U.S., I would be saying to myself I can do the same,“ said Michael Provenzano, CEO and co-founder of Vistar Media, which teams up with mobile operators to provide anonymized and aggregated data for targeting digital out-of-home ads based on consumers‘ comings and goings. „That’s going to be something these guys are talking about in the boardroom.“

Perhaps the most prominent recent moves in the burgeoning TDaaS realm are Verizon’s $4.4 billion acquisition of AOL in May, followed by its purchase of mobile ad network Millennial Media for $238 million in September. Many saw the AOL buy as a means for Verizon to turn its data into a viable business, in part because AOL provides ad-tech infrastructure and marketer relationships that Verizon lacks.

The level of authenticated information derived from Verizon and other mobile operators is seen as potentially more valuable than some other consumer data because it directly connects mobile phone interactions to individuals through actual billing information. „We’re talking about linking a household and a billing relationship with a human being,“ said Seth Demsey, CTO of AOL Platforms.

Verizon’s Precision Market Insights division previously stumbled in its attempts to aggregate and package mobile data to help marketers target consumers and measure campaigns. Sprint’s similar Pinsight Media division and AT&T’s AdWorks—which segments and targets TV audiences—have not fared much better, according to observers.

But lackluster results from going it alone have driven telcos toward companies that can facilitate cashing in on data. Along with SAP on the marketer-facing side, others including HP and IBM have stepped in to help phone carriers on the back-end data management and analysis side.

When Spanish operator Telefonica embarked on its Dynamic Insights offering, it partnered with consumer insights firm GfK to help package the telco’s mobile data for clients including U.K. food purveyor Morrisons. The grocery chain used the service to garner anonymized data connecting consumer demographic data to location visits.

SAP's Rohit Tripathi
SAP’s Rohit Tripathi Credit: Courtesy SAP

Some of these data relationships have long histories. SAP America owns Sybase, a subsidiary it bought in 2010 that serves as a technology hub for multiple mobile carriers and counts Verizon as a partner. The Sybase business has provided „deep relationships with mobile operators around the globe,“ said Rohit Tripathi, global VP and general manager of SAP Mobile Services, in an email.

AirSage, another firm that has tight integrations with mobile operators, supplies data to municipal planners, retail store developers and city tourism boards. The company integrated its technology with telecom companies in the 1990s to enable 911 call support services. More recently it has signed data deals with Verizon Wireless and Sprint. „Our solution is actually plugged into the network behind the firewall of the carrier,“ said Ryan Kinskey, director of business development and sales at AirSage. Device IDs tracked by AirSage are anonymized, he added.

Verizon and Sprint declined to comment for this story. AT&T and T-Mobile said they don’t share consumer or location data with SAP, Sybase, AirSage or Vistar.

Why the secrecy?
Insiders say phone carriers exploring data-sharing businesses are tight-lipped because they don’t want to reveal too many details to competitors, but fear of consumer complaints is always lurking in the background.

EFF's Peter Eckersley
EFF’s Peter Eckersley Credit: Courtesy EFF

„The practices that carriers have gotten into, the sheer volume of data and the promiscuity with which they’re revealing their customers‘ data creates enormous risk for their businesses,“ said Peter Eckersley, chief computer scientist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy watchdog. Mr. Eckersley and others suggest that anonymization techniques are faulty in many cases because even information associated with a hashed or encrypted identification code can be linked back to a home address and potentially reidentified by hackers.

Unlike other types of location tracking, such as beacon technologies that work only with mobile apps that people have agreed to let track them, many services employing telco data require no explicit opt-ins by consumers. Companies like SAP instead rely on carriers‘ terms and conditions with their subscribers, calling acceptance of the terms equivalent to opting in. Verizon’s privacy policy, for example, says that information collected on its customers may „be aggregated or anonymized for business and marketing uses by us or by third parties.“

Ultimately, for mobile operators, these relationships could reap substantial income from the data generated by subscribers who already account for their primary revenue streams. The telcos do not break out revenue derived from their data-related sales in their quarterly earnings reports, so just how much money they’re making from these deals is not known.

SAP will „effectively share the revenue back with the operator, so they get to make money from data that they’re basically not utilizing or under-utilizing today,“ former SAP Mobile President John Sims said at an industry conference in Las Vegas in 2013 as the company introduced Consumer Insight 365.

„The mobile operators don’t want to reveal this,“ said Mr. Tripathi, the SAP Mobile Services executive. No matter how much telcos and their partners stress that the data is anonymized and aggregated, he said, „they are fearful people will take this and twist it into something that it isn’t.“

Intelligente Maschinen manipulieren im Auftrag von Politik und Werbeindustrie


Oliviero Stock forscht an Systemem, die Menschen beeinflussen können. In Zukunft könnten so Einstellungen und Meinungen in der Bevölkerung geändert werden.

Oliviero Stock entwickelt Software, die Menschen beeinflusst. Das funktioniert nicht durch Argumente, sondern indem an die Emotionen appelliert wird. Derzeit funktioniert das beispielsweise, indem vorhandene Texte so modifiziert werden, dass sie eine bestimmte Botschaft vermitteln, etwa durch das Einfügen oder Austauschen von Adjektiven. In Zukunft sollen intelligente Algorithmen allerdings in der Lage sein, durch Humor und Kreativität, selbsttätig Agenden zu verfolgen. Die Werbeindustrie und die Politik könnten versuchen, mit derartiger Software die Menschen zielgerichtet zu manipulieren. Der Schutz vor automatisierter Einflussnahme könnte ebenfalls durch intelligente Software erfolgen. Oliviero Stock, der derzeit amCenter for Information and Communication Technology in Trentoforscht, ist derzeit für die neunte ACM Konferenz für Empfehlungssysteme, die von der TU Wien ausgerichtet wird, in der österreichischen Hauptstadt. Die futurezone hat ihn interviewt.

Oliviero Stock – Foto: YouTube Screenshot

Hat Sie je eine Maschine zum Lachen gebracht?
Wirklich laut gelacht habe ich wegen einer Maschine nur, wenn es um unerwartetes Verhalten aufgrund eines Fehlers geht, aber das zählt nicht. Gelächelt habe ich aber schon aufgrund von Software, die gewollt humorvoll war. Vor Jahren gab es ein Programm, das sich über Abkürzungen lustig gemacht hat, es hieß “Hahacronym”. Die Software hat etwa aus “MIT, dem Massachusetts Institute of Technology”, “Mythical Institute of Theology” gemacht. Bei solchen Beispielen hab ich geschmunzelt 

Können Maschinen Eigenschaften wie Humor oder Kreativität, die üblicherweise mit menschlicher Intelligenz in Verbindung gebracht werden, entwickeln?
Der weltbeste Schachspieler ist eine Maschine. Schach mag zwar nur einen eng begrenzten Fähigkeitenkatalog verlangen, aber ich glaube, es verlangt eine gewisse Intelligenz, nicht nur rohe Rechenkraft. Ich habe früher Schachspiele zwischen menschlichen Profis und dem Computerschach Weltmeister organisiert. Die Kommentatoren und die menschlichen Spieler waren sich stets einig, dass sie am meisten von der Kreativität des Spiels der Maschinen beeindruckt waren.

Sie arbeiten aber auf einem ganz anderen Gebiet, nämlich mit Sprache, die eher im künstlerischen Bereich angesiedelt ist. Können Maschinen auch hier reüssieren?
Ich glaube, auf lange Sicht werden sich Maschinen genau wie Menschen verhalten können. Ob sie je so etwas wie Bewusstsein erlangen werden, kann ich nicht sagen.

Ob eine Maschine Bewusstsein emuliert oder tatsächlich eines entwickelt, ist auch schwer zu sagen.
Genau. Wir haben in jüngerer Vergangenheit im Bereich der Computerlinguistik einen Umbruch erlebt. Bis vor 20 Jahren war das Ziel, dass Maschinen Sprache verstehen und die Forscher dabei Einblicke in die Prozesse im menschlichen Hirn erlangen, die mit Sprache zusammenhängen. Durch das Internet steht praktisch alles, was je geschrieben wurde, für maschinelle Analyse zur Verfügung. Aktuelle Systeme lernen durch Datenanalyse. Das war ein Paradigmenwechsel. In bestimmten, eng begrenzten lingusitischen Einsatzgebieten sind Maschinen heute dadurch schon fast so geschickt wie Menschen. In anderen Bereichen, etwa Rhetorik, hinken die Maschinen aber noch weit hinterher.

Das heißt der statistische Lernansatz hat Grenzen?
Ja, es gibt Dinge, die mit Lern-Algorithmen schwer zu erreichen sind. Diese Art von Lernen hat mit menschlicher Sprachacquisition nichts zu tun. Hier wird es in Zukunft eine Mischung der beiden Ansätze geben, eine Kombination aus Ansätzen, die regelbasiert bzw. korpusbasiert sind (d.h. Lernen aus bestehenden Texten). Das Wissen über menschliche Sprachverarbeitung wird wieder wichtiger.

Wenn kein Bewusstsein, werden Maschinen so etwas wie Persönlichkeit entwickeln?
Ja. Aber so weit sind wir noch nicht.

Müssen wir uns bald vor einer Armee aus Werbe-Bots fürchten, die uns im Internet jagen und versuchen, mir Dinge schmackhaft zu machen, indem sie an unsere Emotionen appellieren?
Das ist eine Sorge, die es gibt. Es gibt Platz für Missbrauch, wie überall. Wir konzentrieren uns darauf, die Technologie voranzutreiben. Jedenfalls könnten solche Systeme ja auch für soziale Anliegen verwendet werden, etwa um die Einstellung der Bevölkerung zu Ausländern zu ändern oder einen gesunden Lebensstil schmackhaft zu machen.

Das ist ethisch schwierig.
Ja, deshalb beschäftigen meine Kollegen und ich uns seit dem Beginn unserer Arbeit mit ethischen Fragen. Es geht nicht nur darum, ob Dinge gut oder schlecht für die Gesellschaft sind, sondern auch darum, dass die Systeme ihre Entscheidungen selbst an das moralisch Annehmbare anpassen. Ein kluges System wird in Zukunft verstehen, was es tun darf und was nicht. In einigen Situationen ist es etwa akzeptabel, wenn ein persuasives System Menschen zu einer Handlung bewegt, die ihnen widerstrebt , etwa wenn ein Haus in Flammen steht und die Bewohner nicht rechtzeitig hinausgehen. Dann wäre selbst eine maschinelle Lüge vertretbar.

Trotzdem ist die maschinelle Manipulation von Menschen problematisch.
Ja, selbst bei einem guten Zweck bleibt die Frage, wer die Entscheidungen trifft. Kurzzeitig wird das wichtigste Thema sein, wer die Systeme kontrolliert – die Verantwortlichen müssen anständig sein. Die Fähigkeiten der Systeme werden sich aber verbessern und langfristig werden die Programme soziale Akteure sein, die in der Gesellschaft selbsttätig ihren Aufgaben nachgehen. Dazu müssen sie aber gut und böse voneinander unterscheiden können. Das wird passieren, ob wir es wollen oder nicht.

Kann das nicht ins Auge gehen?
Es gibt ein sehr geringes Risiko, dass die Maschinen zu Ungunsten der Menschen die Kontrolle übernehmen, aber das halte ich für unwahrscheinlich und von solcher Technologie sind wir noch sehr, sehr weit weg. Ich fürchte mich eher vor Menschen. Es gibt fast nichts, was Menschen sich nicht gegenseitig antun würden. Die Maschinen werden uns helfen, solche Auswüchse in Zaum zu halten.

Macht es für die Werbung einen Unterschied, ob sie von Mensch oder Maschine kreiert wurde?
Unseren Erhebungen zufolge sind Menschen sehr empfindlich, wenn es um Maschinen geht, die versuchen, sie zu beeinflussen. Wenn man sie ganz allgemein danach fragt, ohne eine bestimmte Art von Beeinflussung zu nennen, sagen sie fast immer, dass das inakzeptabel ist. Wenn man aber einen bestimmten Zweck nennt, finden sie solche Beeinflussung oft durchaus annehmbar (etwa, wenn es um Hilfe bei der Erreichung ihrer eigenen Ziele geht). Es ist bemerkenswert, dass Menschen selten mit der traditionellen, durch Menschen erzeugten Werbung ein Problem haben.

Kann man Menschen vor unerwünschten Beeinflussungsversuchen schützen?
Wir haben ein System entwickelt, das Werbungen auf den Arm nimmt, den Subvertizer. Außerdem arbeiten wir an Software, die Menschen vor Beeinflussung schützen sollen, indem sie sie erkennen. Dabei geht es nicht um Banner, die auf Nutzer zugeschnitten sind. Wir beschäftigen uns mit dem Wording von Texten. So erkennen wir Beeinflussungsversuche selbst in Zeitungsartikeln. Auch Journalisten versuchen ja, Einfluss zu nehmen, etwa durch die Wahl der Adjektive. Unser System soll das erkennen, den Nutzer warnen und sogar eine gesäuberte Version des Textes anbieten. So können etwa unerwünschte Beeinflussungsversuche bekämpft werden.

Die Möglichkeit, Werbeslogans automatisch zu erzeugen, wäre perfekt für die Werbeindustrie.
Die Werbeindustrie wird unter den ersten Branchen sein, die auf solche Systeme setzt.

Ist die Technologie heute schon im Einsatz?
Nein. Heute läuft alles noch über statische Banner.

Wann wird sich das ändern?
Ich glaube, dass Technologien, wie sie von uns entwickelt wurden, nicht mehr weit von einer Markteinführung entfernt sind. Vor allem werden damit Botschaften genau auf Personen und Situationen zugeschnitten werden. Das ist für die Werbeindustrie attraktiv.

Wären längerfristig auch Bots denkbar, die versuchen, Menschen im Gespräch zu überzeugen?
Wir entwickeln derzeit keine Bots. Wir beschäftigen uns mit Überzeugungsstrategien, die im Monolog funktionieren, in Form von Text. Es gibt Arbeiten zu Sprachverarbeitung in Dialogsystemen, aber das ist ein ganz anderes Feld mit eigenen Schwierigkeiten. Chatbots basieren heute auf Regeln, da ist noch viel Arbeit nötig. Die heutigen Systeme sind trivial. Wir werden in Zukunft aber interessantere Systeme zu Gesicht bekommen, die auf die zuvor angesprochene Kombination aus Regeln und lernfähigen Algorithmen setzen.

Wie schwer ist es, der Software ethische Grundsätze beizubringen?
Bei selbstfahrenden Autos wird seit kurzem über ethische Systeme diskutiert. Bei Überzeugungssoftware ist das schwieriger, weil zwei Komponenten bedacht werden müssen: die Handlung oder Einstellung, die Ziel der Beeinflussung ist; und der Charakter der Beeinflussung selbst.

Kann eine Maschine wirklich das Gute vom Bösen unterscheiden?
Wir untersuchen bei unserer Arbeit nicht, was gut oder böse ist, sondern was Menschen akzeptieren, auf Grund ihrer aktuellen moralischen Einschätzungen. Da gibt es individuelle Unterschiede.

Wo stehen wir bei diesem Thema?
Die heutige Forschung steht noch am Anfang. Die Überzeugungssysteme müssen subtiler werden, da ist noch einige Arbeit nötig, auch die Persönlichkeit muss berücksichtigt werden.

Sie haben auch Systeme gebastelt, die kreative Schlagzeilen im Stil der britischen Boulevardblätter erstellt. Muss ich mir einen neuen Job suchen?
In naher Zukunft werden die Systeme hauptsächlich Hilfen für Kreative sein. Wir können nämlich schon recht gute, kreative Ergebnisse erzielen, sind aber noch nicht gut darin, die Schlechten herauszufiltern. Maschinen werden Kreativen helfen, sie schneller und effektiver machen. Sie müssen sich also noch keinen anderen Job suchen, sondern werden vielleicht durch die Maschinen ein viel effektiverer Journalist werden. Sie können ihren maschinellen Partner ja sogar geheimhalten, wenn Sie wollen.

Sind Jobs in anderen Branchen durch intelligente Systeme in Gefahr?
Ich kenne die Debatte um einen möglichen Jobverlust durch intelligente Systeme. Ich stimme zu, es wird Jobs geben, die es nicht mehr geben wird, wie schon in der industriellen Revolution. Nur dass diesmal auch bestimmte intellektuelle Arbeiten betroffen sein werden. Aber wie damals wird Boykott keine gute Antwort sein. Die Gesellschaft sollte so klug sein, Wege zu finden, die Maschinen zur Schaffung einer ausbalancierten Gesellschaft einzusetzen. Die Struktur der Arbeit muss sich vielleicht ändern.

Frei nach Marx werden die Arbeiter von heute also Zeit für Poesie und Wein haben?
Ich habe keine spezifische Lösung. Aber das Problem muss ernst genommen und studiert werden. Moderne Theorien und Experimente werden hoffentlich zu einem guten Ergebnis führen. Falsch wäre jedenfalls, die Weiterentwicklung intelligenter Systeme zu begrenzen. Man kann diese Entwicklung nicht aufhalten. Die Menschheit muss neue Auffassungen der Gesellschaft ausarbeiten und damit experimentieren.