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Archive for June, 2011

Google launches Plus to compete with Facebook social media

June 29, 2011 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Customer Service, Facebook, Google, Social Media, Social Networking, Technology Companies, Twitter, Uncategorized

Google has launched a new social media offering entitled Plus (that’s +) – to mixed reviews.Google launches Plus to compete with Facebook social mediaA number of people have been researching Google Plus and whilst there is disagreement it seems to be a qualified success.

At first glance many people will dismiss Google Plus as a derivative of Facebook. This was also true of the ill-fated Buzz.

But this is a much better and more thoughtfully designed product than Buzz- with better security settings.

Accordingly the interface is familiar and relatively intuitive but Google Plus still takes some getting used to.

Some have already criticised Google Plus as a “reactive” product, simply mimicking Facebook with some security tweaks.

Google’s radically different product Google Wave crashed and burned because people didn’t really know what it was or how to use it.

It was too scary unfamiliar. Plus plays it safer and is less of a departure from the known universe of social media tools (Facebook, Twitter) than Wave was from email, for example.

Google has learned the painful lesson of Buzz and has taken enormous pains to attend to privacy in the overall design and experience of the product.

It’s very easy to add people and organize them into standard or customized groups. This is one of the things that immediately impressed me, as well as the attention to privacy and selective sharing.

There’s lots of control over who sees what updates, etc. You’re also able filter all messages and updates by category to see only those from “friends” or “professional” contacts. On the Plus homepage you can click down the list and get selective views from each of your groups:

Users can create and manage groups (“Circles”) very easily once you understand how Plus is organized. This takes relatively little time.

Google says Plus isn’t a Facebook competitor. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

Whether or not it’s intended as a Facebook competitor, it’s definitely not a “Facebook killer.” However its privacy controls and selective group communication tools will appeal to some turned off by Facebook’s aggressive pushing of privacy boundaries and buttons.

UK Government leads global snopping according to Google

June 28, 2011 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Customer Service, data security, Google, search engines, Uncategorized

Britons’ web usage are more likely to be requested by UK authorities than in almost any other country according to figures released by Google.UK Government leads global snopping according to GoogleThe search engine’s Transparency Report shows that in the six months to last December, British intelligence agencies, police and other government bodies asked Google to hand over data 1,162 times.

In raw numbers of requests, the United States topped the international table of 26 developed countries, with 4,601, but when population size was taken into account in an analysis by The Telegraph, it was relegated to fifth.

On this per head basis, only Singapore, which has been criticised by Human Rights Watch as an “authoritarian state”, asked for private data more frequently than Britain.

Australia came third, with 345 requests, and France fourth, with 1,021.

Google did not release details of the data requested, but it is likely to have included web search terms, emails and YouTube activity.

In some cases British authorities do not require a warrant or court order to access such data.

“We hope this tool will shine some light on the appropriate scope and authority of government requests to obtain user data around the globe,” Google said.

“Requests may ask for data about a number of different users or just one user. A single request may ask for several types of data but be valid only for one type and not for another; in those cases, we disclose only the information we believe we are legally required to share.”

Google also released figures on how regularly it removes material such as YouTube videos in response to official requests.

British authorites asked Google to remove content 38 times, including one request by the Office of Fair Trading that more than 93,000 adverts linked to fraud were taken offline.

By comparison, in Germany, which has strict laws against Nazi imagery, authorites made 118 content removal requests.

Brazil topped the table with 263 requests.

Ryan Giggs effect boosts UK social media usage

June 27, 2011 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Facebook, internet, LinkedIn, Social Media, Social Networking, Tablets, Twitter, Uncategorized

Twitter’s UK audience jumped by a third in May 2011 following the Ryan Giggs super injunction leaks, which drove a huge number of female pensioners to the site.Ryan Giggs effect boosts UK social media usageAs a result of the Ryan Giggs super injunction row social media company Twitter enjoyed its highest ever UK audience last month, with 6.1 million British people visiting the site, up 34 per cent on April’s figures, says Nielsen-UKOM, a UK online measurement company.

Twitter’s monthly audience boost was helped by a 65 per cent increase in the number of over 50s men, aged between 50 to 64, accessing the site, and a doubling in the number of female pensioners (the over 65’s) going to to see the latest in the super-injunction row.

Both LinkedIn and Facebook also enjoyed record audience figures last month, also driven by a surge in their popularity amongst the over 50s age group.

During May 2011, 26.8 million Britons visited Facebook, which is the highest ever audience figure the social network has attracted in the UK, propelling it for the first time above MSN, Microsoft’s news and email hub, making it the second most popular site in the country behind Google.

According to the Nielsen-UKOM figures, LinkedIn registered 3.6 million visits during May 2011, up 57 per cent on the same month last year.

Two years ago in the UK the profile of Facebook’s audience was skewed towards 18 to 34 year olds. However, the number of 50 to 64 year olds visiting the site has grown 84 per cent in the last 24 months.

While the number of UK visitors to the three biggest social networks continues to rise, the amount of time these audiences are spending on these sites is more mixed.

The average visitor to Facebook and LinkedIn is spending a little longer on those sites each month than they were two years ago, while the average visitor to Twitter appears to be spending a little less.

Travelodge’s turn to have customer data stolen

June 24, 2011 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Customer Service, Cyber Security, data security, Ecommerce, internet, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

Travelodge is the latest website to have an apparent hacking attack on its customer database.
Travelodge's turn to have customer data stolenThe hotel chain issued a warning to users of its online service to be on the lookout for spam emails.

Full details of the security breach are not available, however a company spokesperson claimed that a limited number of people were affected.

Apparently, no financial information or payment details were stolen in the attack according to Travelodge.

In a letter to customers signed by the company’s chief executive Guy Parsons, it contains little information about the nature of the leak, although it stresses that Travelodge had not sold user data to a third party.

It also quotes the spam email that some customers have received.

“Good day. Don’t miss exciting career opening. The company is seeking for self-motivated people in United Kingdom to help us spread out our activity in the UK area,” said the message.

The company promised to give further updates once it has completed an internal investigation.

Stealing names and email addresses is a favoured tactic of cyber criminals, who use the information to send “phishing” messages to the affected customers.

In many cases, they pose as the company that the data was stolen from in the first place.

Typically, recipients are asked to click on a link that will infect their computer with malicious software. Or the criminals may solicit financial information directly.

Security experts warn users to pay close attention to the address where an email is sent from and the web URL of any links it contains.

Even when these look genuine, people should avoid handing over any secure information in response to unsolicited messages.

Although there appear to have been a spate of amateur hackings recently, organised criminal gangs prey on websites in an attempt to make money from insecure databases.

Tesco bank accounts still frozen by computer problem

June 23, 2011 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Customer Service, Ecommerce, internet, Technology Companies, Uncategorized, Website Design

Some customers of Tesco Bank are still frozen out of their bank accounts- four days after the bank’s computer systems suffered problems over the weekend.
Tesco bank accounts still frozen by computer problemThe banking system crashed locking out customers after Tesco moved the accounts from computers run by its former partner RBS.

Tesco says most people can access their accounts and has taken on extra staff at its call centres.

No spokesman from Tesco Bank was available to comment on its continuing problems.

But the bank’s website carries an apology to customers.

The bank’s website carries advice on what customers should do, especially if they use the Internet Explorer 9 web browser, which was launched earlier this year.

Tesco believes that this has a compatibility problem with its system, which can be very easily fixed if customers follow some instructions to re-set their browsers.

Many customers have been frustrated at both the computer lock-out and the inability of Tesco’s call centre to deal with the big jump in calls.

Google’s Panda review- another reranking coming soon

June 22, 2011 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Google, Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Optimisation, search engines, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

Matt Cutts- Google’s unofficial spokesperson made the Panda reranking announcement in a question and answer session at the SMX Advanced conference.Google's Panda review- another reranking coming soonWith Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land in attendance they mentioned that ‘Google has updated and approved the changes in the Panda algorithm but that it hasn’t been rolled out yet, but that should happen soon’.

Addressing the frequent complaints from webmasters that web content scraping sites still out rank the original content sites, Cutts said that the Google Panda algorithm update (version 2.2) will tackle this issue.

He also said that Google will keep working on the Panda algorithm until they have a robust algorithm that can penalize the content farming and related sites and display better improved search results.

This means that websites that were penalised by the original Panda update could soon look forward to regaining their original rankings or even getting higher rankings in the SERPs.

The differences with Panda update 2.2 lies in its implementation – Cutts said that the algorithm will be manually scanning for those particular websites that are involved in content farming and/or content re-publishing.

While Panda Update 2.1 was only released in early May, it was a minor update and received no fanfare from Google.

The fact that Matt Cutts has mentioned 2.2 at one of the biggest SEO conferences of the year indicates that its probably going to be big (and have quite an impact).

However, to avoid any great impact to your websites ranking, ensure that your site is kept up-to-date with good quality content.

This will reduce the likelihood of any penalty or if you have already been penalized in previous updates then the penalty should soon be lifted after the 2.2 launch.

Google hasn’t given a specific date on the launch of the Panda update 2.2, but as soon as we hear anything more we will be sure to let you know.

Lockheed Martin under fire after entire UK census hacked

June 21, 2011 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Cyber Security, data security, Dr Search, internet, Technology Companies

The US defense contractor who collated the UK census Lockheed Martin has come under fire after it emerged that the entire database may have been hacked.Lockheed Martin under fire after entire UK census hackedAn alleged member of the hacking group behind the claim, LulzSec, was arrested in Essex this morning by specialist cyber crime officers from Scotland Yard.

The 19 year old was taken to a central London police station and remains in custody on suspicion of Computer Misuse Act and Fraud Act offences.

A “significant amount of material” was also seized from an address in Wickford, Essex.

The “pre-planned intelligence-led operation” in collaboration with the FBI followed claims online that the 2011 census database had been stolen and would be published in full.

“We have blissfully obtained records of every single citizen who gave their records to the security-illiterate UK government for the 2011 census,” a posting purportedly by LulzSec said.

“We’re keeping them under lock and key though… so don’t worry about your privacy (…until we finish re-formatting them for release),” it added.

The posting said the database will be published via The Pirate Bay, a file sharing website.

The Office of National Statistics said it was investigating the claims.

“We are aware of the suggestion that census data has been accessed. We are working with our security advisers and contractors to establish whether there is any substance to this,” it said.

“The 2011 Census places the highest priority on maintaining the security of personal data. At this stage we have no evidence to suggest that any such compromise has occurred.”

LulzSec first emerged in May and mounted a series of Distributed Denial of Service and hacking attacks on high profile organisations. Sony, the CIA, the US Senate, the Serious Organised Crime Agency and security companies linked to the FBI have all been targeted.

The group claims to be acting purely for amusement.”Lulz” is a derivative of LOL, the abbreviation for “laugh out loud” commonly used online.

Dr Search suspects that Lockheed Martin’s brand image “we never forget who we are working for” is about to become rather derided.

Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) is an American global aerospace, defense, security, and advanced technology company with worldwide interests.

It was formed by the merger of Lockheed Corporation with Martin Marietta in March 1995.

It is headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, in the Washington Metropolitan Area. Lockheed Martin employs 133,000 people worldwide. Robert J. Stevens is the current Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

Lockheed Martin is one of the world’s largest defense contractors; In 2009, 74% of Lockheed Martin’s revenues came from military sales.

Website names rules broadend by regulator

June 20, 2011 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Customer Service, Ecommerce, internet, Online Marketing, Search Clinic, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) will radically increase the number of domain endings from the current 22.Website names rules broadend by regulatorThe global internet regulating body has voted to allow the creation of completely new website domain suffixes- the biggest change for the online world in years.

Internet address names can now end with almost any word and be in any language.

Icann will begin taking applications next year, with corporations and cities expected to be among the first.

“Icann has opened the internet’s addressing system to the limitless possibilities of the human imagination,” said Rod Beckstrom, president and chief executive officer for Icann.  “No one can predict where this historic decision will take us.”

There will be several hundred new generic top-level domain names (gTLDs), which could include such addresses as .google, .apple, or even .searchclinic.

There are currently 22 gTLDs, as well as about 250 country-level domain names such as .uk or .us.

However the process will not be simple or cheap. It will cost £114,000 to apply for the suffixes, and companies would need to show they have a legitimate claim to the name they are buying.

The vote completes a six year negotiation process and is the biggest change to the system since .com was first introduced 26 years ago.

Icann said it was beginning a global communications programme to raise awareness of the new domain names.

New applications will start on 12 January 2012.

Social media network UK traffic figures in May 2011

June 17, 2011 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Dr Search, Facebook, Social Media, Social Networking, Twitter, Uncategorized, YouTube

The latest social media network UK traffic figures for May 2011 have just been released by Hitwise.Social media network UK traffic figures in May 2011From: Hitwise social media network uk traffic figures May 2011

The overall result is that traffic to both YouTube and Twitter has increased whilst Facebook’s dominance of social media has declined.

This month’s search and social analysis release confirmed some interesting trends in the Social Networking and Forums category, including a bumper month of traffic for Twitter, continuing growth for YouTube and a declining market share for Facebook.

Last month Hitwise noted the growth of YouTube and how the video website now accounts for 1 in every 5 visits to all social networking sites. In May YouTube continued its growth, accounting for 20.52% of all visits to the Social Networks and Forums category.

Meanwhile Twitter had its biggest month of traffic ever, in part because of the super-injunction revelations, but also because the micro-blogging platform has carved a niche for itself as an excellent platform through which Internet users can share and consume news.

Recent examples like the death of Osama Bin Laden, the Egypt crisis and the resurgence of the ash cloud have all been shared and discussed on Twitter.

What’s interesting is that the growth of YouTube and Twitter is coming at the expense of Facebook.

Since the beginning of 2011, Facebook’s market share of visits within the Social Networks and Forums category has fallen from nearly 58% to hover around the 54% mark.

Despite the drop in market share in recent months, Facebook needn’t panic. Although its market share is declining slightly, Facebook still commands over half of the visits to the fastest growing category online, and having a slightly smaller proportion of an ever increasing pie is still a very healthy place to be.

However, it does raise the question: has Facebook now finished its growth phase in the UK? This is something that Dr Search will continue to monitor closely over the coming months and confirms our blog post of a couple of days ago when I posted: Facebook faces saturation claims as growth stops

Taxman targets online traders

June 16, 2011 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Customer Service, Ecommerce, internet, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

The taxman is to use improved surveillance software to target online traders using marketplace websites but failing to pay tax.
Taxman targets online tradersHM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has warned that its new campaign would try to identify regular sellers on eBay, Auto Trader, E-auctions, Amazon, Craigslist and Gumtree.

Occasional sellers of personal items do not need to pay tax, but people earning a living as self employed traders may need to pay income tax, national insurance and VAT.

HMRC said the data it gleaned would be compared with its existing computerised records for income tax paid under self-assessment or PAYE, tax credits and national insurance.

“It shines a light onto previously hidden relationships, uncovering anomalies between such elements as bank interest, property income and lifestyle indicators before homing in on unexplained inconsistencies,” an HMRC spokesman said.

The taxman is also planning to launch more disclosure campaigns in this current tax year, aimed at specific groups of individuals, such as private tutors and fitness coaches, and tradesmen.

In the past couple of years the authorities have been making special efforts to get doctors and dentists, plumbers, and more recently restaurateurs, to come clean and pay the right tax.

HMRC first used computer software four years ago to track down tax-dodging internet traders on eBay.

Tens of thousands of people are thought to make part or all of their living by selling goods on online market places.