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6 essential iPhone apps for your hike

By Katherine Gray

Whether you’re hitting the trails in search of the perfect photo op or just exercising Fido, hiking can be a wonderfully relaxing and invigorating activity. A quick visit to your local outdoor equipment store makes it obvious that there are a ton of gadgets out there for the outdoor enthusiast, but the most important accessory you can bring along might just be your iPhone.

With a good pair of hiking boots, a water bottle, and the right apps on your smartphone, you're ready to hit the trails.

With a good pair of hiking boots, a water bottle, and the right apps on your smartphone, you’re ready to hit the trails.

Trail maps, GPS trackers, even tips on roughing it a bit more comfortably can all be found at your fingertips, thanks to a bevy of iPhone apps. Take a look before you take to the woods, and make sure you’re prepared for your next adventure.

1. AccuTerra Unlimited

Price: $29.99

While AccuTerra is one of the most pricey hiking apps out there, it is well worth the cost. Over 5 million square miles of terrain and trail maps are included with the app (no extra in-app purchases necessary), all gorgeously rendered, zoomable, and optimized for the iPhone. You can take and geotag photos from the app, get real-time elevation and travel stats, and share your adventures through social media.

2. EveryTrail Pro

Price: Free for basic, $3.99 for Pro

EveryTrail Pro is a viable and cheaper alternative to AccuTerra Unlimited, but if you hike a lot of different trails, you might end up spending as much if not more in map and trail guide purchases. It’s a great app, though, with over 400,000 different hikes, audio guides for points of interest, travel stats, and the ability to plot the photos you take on the map of your hike. In addition to no ads, the pro version lets you download and manage your maps offline, record geotagged video, and sync your trips between the app and EveryTrail.com.

3. iMapMyHike

Price: Free for basic, $1.99 for Plus

iMapMyHike is part of a series of apps (including apps for biking, walking, running, and general fitness) that allow you to map your fitness activities. You can log your hikes, view elevation info, and keep track of where you’ve been in an online hike journal. With a free account at MapMyHike, you can search a database of millions of hikes and bookmark the ones you want to try, then pull up the information on your phone. You can also track companions on the trails nearby and post your hikes to Facebook and Twitter.

4. Camp Where

Price: $4.99

Going on an overnight hiking trip? This app contains detailed information about more than 10,000 campgrounds in the United States and Canada. GPS coordinates, contact information, elevation, weather forecasts, and whether or not camps accept reservations and have RV hookups can all be found through this app. Only public campgrounds are included, such as state, local, and national parks and forests, as well as county and city campgrounds.

5. Army Survival

Price: $1.99

With information pulled directly from the U.S. Army Field Manual, this app has just about all the information you need to survive in the wilderness. While it can’t substitute for real training and experience, there’s a wealth of information that can help out in a pinch. Covered subjects include basic survival medicine, building shelters, finding water, edible, poisonous, and medicinal plants, cold weather survival, signaling techniques, knot tying, and direction finding.

6. Gaia GPS

Price: $9.99

Like to go where the roads don’t go? Gaia GPS is an app designed specifically for backcountry hikers who like to travel off the beaten path. You can download unlimited topographic and road maps, search for and record tracks and waypoints, and keep track of all your off-grid adventures.

The world is your playground

With a good pair of hiking boots, a water bottle, and the right apps on your smartphone, you’re ready to hit the trails. It doesn’t matter if you’re a weekend warrior who’s just walking in the local park or a hard-core back country aficionado — hiking is an excellent way to get some exercise, see the world, and enjoy the fresh air of spring. So get out there and get moving!

This article originally appeared on Tecca.


Crowds storm stores for Apple’s next iPad

By Brett Molina, USA TODAY

Thousands of eager consumers braved long lines across the globe in hopes of securing Apple’s highly-anticipated new iPad.

Apple stores in 10 different countries including the U.S. opened their doors at 8 a.m. local time, clapping and cheering for customers as they walked out with one of their third-generation tablets.

PHOTOS:  Apple’s next iPad goes on sale worldwide

“It’s no fun to order online,” says Chan Park, 48, of Fairfax, Va., who waited in line at an Apple store in Tysons Corner, Va., to snag an iPad for his 16-year-old son. “There’s some excitement waiting in line.”

Skerdi Kostreci, 38, of Vienna, Va., also braved the early morning lines to scoop up his third iPad. “I had the first iPad. I have iPad 2. Now I have to get the new one,” Kostreci says, adding he’s giving his iPad 2 to his wife.

Brendan Marnell, 28, from Arlington, Va., who works for a software company, says the iPad 2 “didn’t have quite enough for me to plunk down the cash,” but is excited about the upgraded display and plans on “using this as a digital sketchpad.”

Among those waiting for the new iPad: Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who was first in line at a store in Los Angeles,Mashable reports.

“It’s become a ritual,” says Wozniak. “Because I’ve done it so many times, I’m doing it again.” He was also one of the first people in line to snag the iPhone 4S last October.

Lizandra Osorio, 23, of Bridgeton, N.J., first tried a New Jersey Walmart at midnight, but the store had only a few iPads, so she drove to a shopping mall in Delaware at 2 a.m. Hundreds of people were ahead of her.

“I was planning to be first in line, but that plan failed,” Osorio laughed, wrapped in a fleece blanket outside the mall. “If I can get one in my hands, it’ll be worth it.”

Sam Fong, 37, and Jimmy Koo, 27, drove about three hours from New York City to Delaware — which doesn’t charge sales tax — by about 3 a.m.

“I want the new one,” said Fong, who has an iPad 2.

About 80 people lined up outside the Apple store in Freehold, N.J., Thursday morning to take their bite out of Apple’s iPad.

At the head of the class was Arthur Nazarov, 29, of Brooklyn. He and a few others had been standing outside the mall since 3 a.m. “freezing our butts off,” Nazarov said.

“I stood still and tried to keep my feet moving,” he said, sipping a cup of Starbucks coffee handed out by Apple staff from a mobile cart.

At least 30 blue-shirted staff lined up and applauded as Nazarov and a few others who had pre-ordered their iPads were allowed to enter the store.

He said he made the hour-long trip to New Jersey because “New York is New York — it’s overcrowded. I figured here the lines would be a little lighter.”

Apple also launched the new iPad in nine other countries: Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

In Australia, dozens waited in line outside an Apple store in Sydney to snag their device. As BusinessWeek reports:

“Employees in blue T-shirts cheered and counted down the 10 seconds until doors opened at 8 a.m. A queue of at least 200 people snaked 100 meters around three sides of the city block.”

In Japan, more than 450 people waited at an Apple store in Tokyo in hopes of getting an iPad, the Wall Street Journal reports.

One student, Ryo Watanabe, tells the Journal he and a friend took turns waiting in line for 37 hours to be first in line. “The fact that the display has gotten better is a big enough reason for me to get it,” Watanabe tells the paper.

Meanwhile, iPad mania appears equally powerful in London,according to the Telegraph. Among consumers waiting for the tablet was a 21-year-old who had camped out for the past five days.

“The iPad is the best product of the year and there won’t be any more until 2013 so I am happy to queue,” Zohaib Ali tells the Telegraph.

As for the iPad’s U.S. release, don’t expect every person to flash smiles at Apple stores. The Los Angeles Times reports dozens of protesters are expected to show up at locations in New York, San Francisco and Washington to “bring attention to concerns about the welfare of the Chinese factory workers who churn out the devices to satisfy a growing global demand.”

“It’s great to see Apple taking important steps like auditing its factories and paying raises for factory workers,” said Mark Shields, who launched a campaign through Change.org protesting work conditions in China, in a statement. “But Apple hasn’t crossed the finish line yet. New product releases, like the iPad 3 this week, have typically been the most dangerous for workers because of the incredible pressure they are under to meet release production deadlines.”

The device includes a Retina display, faster processing chip with quad-core graphics and an iSight camera.

Contributing: Lindsay Powers in Tysons Corner, Va.; Mike Chalmers, The News Journal, Wilmington, Del.; Alesha Williams Boyd, Asbury Park (N.J. ) Press.



Turntable.fm Goes ‘Legit’ With Licenses From All 4 Major Labels

By Eliot Van Buskirk

AUSTIN, Texas — Turntable.fm, a social music service that goes beyond the usual buzzword with a service that turns music fans into avatars so they can DJ music for each other in rooms, is officially “legit.” On Tuesday at the SXSW Interactive festival, Turntable.fm co-founders Billy Chasen and Seth Goldstein announced that their company had secured licensing deals with all four major labels during a panel called “Turntable.FM: The Future of Music Is Social.”

Part of the holdup was due to the novelty of Turntable.fm, which isn’t an unlimited, on-demand service like Spotify or a “lean back” streaming radio app like Pandora. Instead, it allows a few users to take the stage in order to DJ to up to 200 listeners in virtual rooms, each with its own musical theme.

Then, there’s the somewhat open nature of the service. DJs can choose from a catalog provided by MediaNet; or, if they want to play a bespoke remix or even a song they’ve recorded themselves, they can upload it into the service, where other users can add it to their queue (the collection of songs that they can play if they can get a spot on the stage).

The possibility of playing music from outside of a standard catalog likely complicated the licensing process further — as did the fact that the co-founders didn’t have a firm grasp of music licensing when they set out to launch Turntable.fm. Even without licensing in place, they attracted $7.5 million in funding from Union Square Ventures on the strength of a revolutionary concept and a warm reception by the press and public, but obtaining these licenses was clearly a necessary step.

“We went into it without being worried about [licensing]. I didn’t, and still don’t know what the DMCA [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] stands for,” said Goldstein in advance of today’s announcement. “We didn’t know about the restrictions, the per-play rates, international [licensing differences], and the publishers, and the PROs [Performing Rights Organizations] — it was all gobbledegook … Intellectually, it [was] a huge challenge to navigate through a lot of these partnerships and label negotiations.”

With help from digital music lawyer Debbie Newman, Goldstein and Chasen were able to navigate those waters to give Turntable.fm legitimate licenses from the labels, paving the way for its further expansion.

Initially a web-only app, Turntable.fm is now a mobile app as well, allowing fans to carry around many rooms of music in their pockets where up to five DJs — including you, if you think you have what it takes — choose the tunes.


Apple’s Siri not as smart as she looks, lawsuit charges

by Josh Lowensohn

SUMMARY: A new lawsuit seeking class action says Siri doesn’t work anywhere near as well as Apple’s TV ads suggest.

Apple’s been a little overzealous in the way it’s advertised Siri, the voice assistant feature found on the company’s latest iPhone, a new lawsuit claims.

iPhone 4S buyer Frank Fazio says the software feature simply didn’t work like it did in Apple’s television advertising. And now he’s suing Apple in the Northern District of California.

“Promptly after the purchase of his iPhone 4S, [Fazio] realized that Siri was not performing as advertised,” Fazio’s complaint states. “For instance, when [Fazio] asked Siri for directions to a certain place, or to locate a store, Siri either did not understand what Plaintiff was asking, or after a very long wait time, responded with the wrong answer.”

As a result, Fazio supposedly believes that Apple has been overpromising what the software can do for potential buyers.

“Notwithstanding Apple’s extensive multi-million dollar advertising campaign showcasing the Siri feature, and the fact that the iPhone 4S is more expensive than the iPhone 4, the iPhone 4S’s Siri feature does not perform as advertised, rendering the iPhone 4S merely a more expensive iPhone 4,” the suit says.

The suit alleges that Apple is in violation of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act, California’s Unfair Competition Law, is in breach of warranty, and has committed both intentional and negligent misrepresentation. Fazio’s attorneys are seeking class action for other iPhone 4S owners, with the claimed end goal of ending Apple’s sales of the device, as well as damages. (You can be forgiven for thinking the lawyers might be a tad more interested in the latter than the former.)

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

Apple launched Siri alongside the iPhone 4S last October. The feature uses the iPhone 4S’ built-in microphone, taking user commands and turning them into actions on the phone. That includes searching the Web, setting reminders, and checking stock prices. Those queries are piped through Apple’s servers then fed back to the phone.


Facebook’s Zuckerberg: If I Were Starting A Company Now, I Would Have Stayed In Boston

Yesterday, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg took the stage at Y Combinator’s Startup School in a candid interview with Y Combinator Partner Jessica Livingston. You can watch the full interview here, and it starts around the 43 minute mark, and lasts for roughly 40 minutes. If you have some time to spare, it’s well worth a look.

Zuck revealed a number of fascinating things about entrepreneurship, founding Facebook, and product development, but one of the more interesting (and surprising points) came at the end of the interview when Livingston asked him what he would do different if he could go back in time. Zuck replied: If I were starting now I would do things very differently. I didn’t know anything. In Silicon Valley, you get this feeling that you have to be out here. But it’s not the only place to be. If I were starting now, I would have stayed in Boston. [Silicon Valley] is a little short-term focused and that bothers me.

He explained that he had a conversation once with Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos about this, and the average time someone stays in job at Seattle is twice as long than it is in Silicon Valley. “There’s a culture out here where people don’t commit to doing things, I feel like a lot of companies built outside of Silicon Valley seem to be focused on a longer-term,” he explains. “You don’t have to move out here to do this.”

“There’s this culture in the Valley of starting a company before they know what they want to do. You decided you want to start a company, but you don’t know what you are passionate about yet…you need to do stuff you are passionate about. The companies that work are the ones that people really care about and have a vision for the world so do something you like.”

Zuckerberg also talked about the early days, when he was at Harvard, thinking of the idea for what would become Facebook. I was in denial that we were going to make a company early on. When I was in college, I had a lot of conversations with my friends about the direction the world was going to go to and we cared more about seeing this happen. We built it and we didn’t expect it to be a company, we were just building this because we thought it was awesome, he explained

When Zuck moved out to Silicon Valley in his sophomore summer, he thought that maybe one day he and his team would develop a startup, but didn’t think Facebook was that startup. “It was not like in the movie, there was no drinking. We all just lived in a house, iterated, kept going,” he said candidly. “It wasn’t until we got our first office in Palo Alto where things became more like a company. We never went into this wanting to build a company.” But a company is the best vehicle in the world to align a lot of people to achieve a mission, he said.

Livingston asked Zuckerberg about how he pitched Facebook when he first pitched the business to Battery Ventures in Boston in 2004. “I barely remember that but I agree that it happened,” he recalled. “I don’t think I said anything and Eduardo said some things but it was fine because I didn’t want to do that anyway.”

Zuckerberg said that Eduardo early on said that Facebook needed to raise money, and he was skeptical of VCs. “That was one of the reasons that we accepted from Peter Thiel, because he could relate to us on a founder level,” he explained, referring to Thiel co-founding his own companies, including PayPal. Zuck said that in Silicon Valley, everyone was talking about flipping companies and he found that to be unattractive. Another potential investor Zuck really was passionate about was Donald Graham, CEO and chairman of The Washington Post. He explained that he came close to taking money from Graham, but Graham actually encouraged Zuckerberg to take money from Jim Breyer at Accel Partners. Zuck saw this as the “best of both worlds.”

He also gave startup founders advice how to guide on how to handle acquisition offers, and gave interesting insight on how he look at Facebook’s own acquisition offers. We really had one phase of this and the only reason why its’ this big story that everyone knows about us turning down a lot of money is because I messed up the process. It’s one of the biggest management mistakes I made through Facebook’s whole history. I learned a lot about the team at that time, and ended turning over a lot of that same team. I wasn’t in it for the acquisitions, and I wanted people around me who were in it for the long-term, he said.

It’s not clear that you should turn down offers, he explained but you should take it if it means the company can go in the direction you want it to go on. “If you go through some big corporate change, it’s just not going to be the same,” Zuck said.”If we sold to Yahoo, they would have done something different, if you want to continue your vision of the company, then don’t sell because there’s inevitably going to be some change.”

One of the key parts of operations is a ‘growth team,’ which is a centralized team Facebook set up to help its users stay connected an engaged. For example, Zuck said that through this team, the company found that members need to have at least ten friends to have enough content in the news feed to come back to the site. So Facebook reengineered the whole flow of the site when someone signs in to focus on having people find other people to connect with, so that people can get connected with friends (and meet that minimum) right away. Zuckerberg said that the company has exported this idea to another startups, including Dropbox. “Once you have a product that you are happy with, you the need to centralize things to continue growth.”

When Livingston asked what surprised Zuck most in the history of building Facebook, he replied honestly, “most things were surprising.” “I don’t pretend that I had any idea that I was doing. I always felt like we were so close to dying in the first years, and were afraid that Google was about to build our product and we were going to be screwed, and look how long it took for them to build our product,” he said laughing, referring to Google’s newly launched social product Google+. “You are going to make a ton of mistakes, you don’t get judged by that.”

As for what Facebook’s future is, Zuck shed some light on his vision for the network. “I think the story that we look back will be the apps and things that are built on top of Facebook. The past five years have been about being connecting people and the next five to ten years are about what are all the things that can be built now that these connections are in place.”

And I’ll leave you with one of Zuck’s more memorable quotes from the talk, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk…In a world that changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

Via TechCrunch


Google Puts A Price On Privacy

Earlier this week, Google made a significant change purportedly to better protect the search privacy of users. In reality, it specifically — and deliberately — left a gaping hole open to benefit its bottom line. If you pay-to-play, Google will share its search data with you.

Google’s a big company that goes after revenue in a variety of ways some critics feel put users second. However, I’m struggling to think of other examples where Google has acted in such a crass, it’s all-about-the-revenue manner as it has this week. The best comparison I can think of is when Google decided to allow Chinese censorship. Yes, this is in the same league.

It’s in that league because Google is a company that prides itself by doing right by the user. Yet in this case, it seems perfectly happy to sell out privacy, if you’re an advertiser. That’s assuming you believe that Caller ID-like information that’s being blocked (except for advertisers) is a privacy issue.

Google doesn’t, as best I can tell. Instead, the blocking is a pesky side effect to a real privacy enhancement Google made, a side effect Google doesn’t seem to want to cure for anyone but advertisers.

If it had taken a more thoughtful approach, ironically, Google could have pushed many sites across the web to become more secure themselves. It missed that opportunity.

I’ll cover all of this below, in detail. It’s a long article. If you prefer a short summary, skip to the last two sections, “Why Not Get Everyone To Be Secure” and “Moving Forward.”

Default Encrypted Search Begins

Let’s talk particulars. On Tuesday, Google announced that by default, it would encrypt the search sessions of anyone signed in to Google.com. This means that when someone searches, no one can see the results that Google is sending back to them.

That’s good. Just as you might want your Gmail account encrypted, so that no one can see what you’re emailing, so you also may want the search results that Google is communicated back to you to be kept private.

That’s especially so because those search results are getting more personalized and potentially could be hacked. The EFF, in its post about Google’s change, pointed to two papers (here and here) about this.

Encryption Can Break Caller ID

There’s a side effect to encryption that involves what are called “referrers.” When someone clicks on a link from one web site that leads to another, most browsers pass along referrer data, which is sort of like a Caller ID for the internet. The destination web site can see where the person came from.

When someone comes from an encrypted site, this referrer information isn’t passed on unless they are going to another encrypted site. That means when Google moved to encrypted search, it was blocking this Caller ID on its end for virtually all the sites that it lists, since most of them don’t run encrypted or “secure” servers themselves.

This is a crucial point. Encryption — providing a secure web site — doesn’t block referrers if someone goes from one secure web site to another. Consider it like this:

  • Unsecure >>> passes referrer to >>> Unsecure
  • Secure >>> passes referrer to >>> Secure
  • Secure /// does NOT pass referrer to /// Unsecure

Google’s Referrer Problem

If everyone on the web ran secure servers, aside from the web being a more secure place in the way that Google itself wants it to be, the referrer hypocrisy that Google committed this week wouldn’t be an issue.

The vast majority of sites don’t run secure servers, of course. That posed a problem for Google. Referrers from search engines are unique. Since as long as we’ve had search engines — over 15 years — those links people click on from search engine results have contained the search terms people have used.

For publishers, this has made search marketing incredibly powerful. They are able to tell exactly what terms were used when someone found their web site, at a search engine like Yahoo, Bing or Google

Moving to secure searching meant that Google was suddenly, dramatically, no longer going to send this information to publishers, because as I’ve covered, virtually none of those publishers were running secure servers. As a result, Google almost certain realized there was going to be backlash.

Putting A Price On Privacy

Google could have endured the backlash, saying that if publishers still wanted this data, they could move to secure servers. Instead, it deliberately chose to override how referrers are passed, so that they would continue to be provided to just its advertisers.

Backlash, Google would endure, but it seems apparently not from those who made Google nearly $10 billion last quarter alone.

To solve this, Google changed from the standard way that referrers are supposed to be passed to its own unique system, which works like this:

  • Secure /// does NOT pass referrer to /// Unsecure unless…
  • Secure >>> passes referrer if ADVERTISER to >>> Unsecure

Let me be very clear. Google has designed things so that Caller ID still works for its advertisers, but not anyone else, even though the standard for secure services isn’t supposed to allow this. It broke the standard, deliberately, to prevent advertiser backlash.

The PR Plan For Publisher Backlash: It’s A Tiny Loss!

Google still knew there would be backlash from another group of publishers, those who have received this Caller ID referrer data from Google’s “free” or “organic” or “editorial” or “SEO” listings. What was the solution for that problem?

Here, Google seems to have a three-fold approach. First, suggest that only a tiny amount of data is being withheld. Some scoffed at Google’s estimate that I reported, that this would impact less than 10% of query data. But so far that seems to be holding true.

For example, here was our second most popular keyword sending us traffic from Google yesterday, according to Google Analytics:

“Not Provided” is what Google reports in cases when it now blocks referrers — or technically, it still provides referrers but is specifically stripping search terms out of them.

Our number two keyword! And yet, we received nearly 15,000 keyword-related visits from Google yesterday. These terms that were withheld amounted to only 2.6% of them.

On my personal blog, this is in about the 2% range. SEOmoz reported around 2%, as well.

These low figures will makes it easier for Google to gloss over publisher concerns, especially when they’re almost all being voiced by those in the SEO industry. The industry has a bad name, so if it’s against something, that can almost seem like a ringing endorsement for good.

Ars Technica had some comments like this, in response to its story on the Google change:

I’m playing the saddest song in the world on the smallest violin in the world. Poor, poor, SEO leaches 

I AM completely unsympathetic. The sooner these SEO leeches, parasites, spammers and scammers die die die the better off the web will be.

Don’t make this mistake. This is not just an SEO issue. This is a user privacy issue. SEOs are simply the harbingers spotting Google’s hypocrisy around privacy.

The Data’s Still Around!

The second bit of PR messaging was to reassure that plenty of search data can be found in another way through the Google Webmaster Central service.

This is true. Google does provide search query data through this service, and it’s warmly welcomed by many site owners.

However, Google also provides search query data to its advertisers through the AdWords system. That’s the publisher equivalent to Google Webmaster Central.

Since advertisers can get data through AdWords, just as publishers can use Google Webmaster Central, why does Google still need to deliberately override how referrers would normally be blocked just for advertisers?

Google argued in its blog post that advertisers needed referrer data “to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns and to improve the ads and offers they present to you.” Outside of conversion tracking to the keyword level and retargeting, that doesn’t hold up, to me. I’ll get back to these.

Google Said Referrer Data Was Better

By the way, Google is on record as saying the data in Google Webmaster Central for publishers is not as good as referrer data.

This comes from an online exchange between Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s web spam team and who acts as a liaison on many publisher issues, and Gabriel Weinberg, the founder of tiny Duck Duck Go search engine who was challenging Google over providing referrer information.

Weinberg wrote:

So now that we know what is going on, why allow this personal information to leak? As far as I can tell, the only reason is so Webmasters can do better at Google SEO. And that reason can be wholly mitigated through the use of Google’s Webmaster Tools.

Cutts responded (and I’ll bold the key part):

Google’s webmaster tools only provide a sampling of the data. We used to provide info for only 100 queries. Now we provide it for more queries, but it’s still a sample. 

Please don’t make the argument that the data in our webmaster console is equivalent to the data that websites can currently find in their server logs, because that’s not the case.

In January of this year, data from Google Webmaster Central was deemed inferior to referrer data. In October, it’s repositioned as an acceptable alternative to blocking referrers.

Referrers Are Private!

Google’s third and most important method of countering backlash is to make out that referrer data is somehow so private that it can no longer be provided to publishers. If you read closely, however, you understand that Google never actually takes this position. Rather, it’s implied.

Google’s blog post on the change made no mention — none — that this move was done because referrers had private information that might leak out. It was only about protecting the search results themselves:

As search becomes an increasingly customized experience, we recognize the growing importance of protecting the personalized search results we deliver.

Remember those studies I mentioned? Those were all about search results, not about referrers.

Referrers only get mentioned in Google’s post as a heads-up to publishers that they’ll be lost, and not because they’re also private and need to be protected but rather — well, Google doesn’t explain why. The implication is that they just have to go.

As I’ve read stories in the broader press, I’ve seen the assumption that Google is blocking referrers because it considers them to be private. Heck, I came away from my initial interview with Google when the news broke thinking the same thing.

It’s no wonder. Because Google has deliberately broken security to pass referrers to advertisers but not publishers, it had to lump that qualification into the overall security story. It made referrer blocking seem like it was done to protect privacy, rather than the troublesome side effect it really was.

But You Didn’t Say They Were Private Before

To emphasize how not-private Google has viewed referrer data, consider two issues.

The first was in 2009, when Google made a change to its search results that broke referrers from being passed. Publishers were upset, and Google restored referrers.

Cutts — who keep in mind is one of the people Google had talk about this week’s encryption change –  tweeted “yay” about the restoration. Clearly, he didn’t see any privacy issues being lost by it then. He was happy Google went out of its way to bring referrers back.

Think 2009 is too far back? OK, at the beginning of this year, Duck Duck Go — aside from buying a billboard to attack Google on privacy grounds – launched an illustrated guide to alleged Google privacy issues, including concerns over referrrer data.

In reaction to that, Cutts pushed back on referrers being a problem:

Referrers are a part of the way the web has worked since before Google existed. They’re a browser-level feature more than something related to specific websites.

When he was further challenged on the issue by Duck Duck Go’s founder Weinberg, Cutts specifically did not include referrers in a list of things that seemed to be private:

That was the same day we announced SSL search, which prevents referrers to http sites…. 

The fact is that Google has a good history of supporting privacy, from fighting overly broad subpoenas from the DOJ to SSL Search to creating a browser plugin to opt out of personalized advertising.

On a personal note here, I like Matt Cutts. I’m not trying to single him out unfairly by citing this stuff. He’s just a Googler extremely close to the issue, knowledgable about it and even when speaking in a semi-official manner, it reflects back on what’s true with Google.

Personally, I get the impression he might not agree with the referrer blocking for publishers but is going to put the best spin he can on a decision that his company made. Just my gut feel, and no special knowledge here. I could be wrong. Maybe I can get him to share more later.

Google Change Benefits Google

I think it’s fair to say that Google has not agreed with the view that referrers are private, nor has it clearly said referrers were blocked to protect privacy.

So why do it? One reason is that it makes Google more competitive. If someone lands on your web site, and you know the search term they used, you can then target them in various ways across the web with ads you believe reflect that search interest. All you need is the initial term.

This is called “retargeting,” and Google’s a leading provider of retargeted ads. When you cut the referrers out, except for your own advertisers, Google makes it harder for its competitors to offer retargeting services. Search marketers already understand this. Wait until Google’s anti-trust enemies clue in. They’ll be swooping in on this one (and we’ll have more to say on it in the future).

Another benefit is that it prevents anyone but Google’s own advertisers from doing keyword-level conversion tracking. With search referrers, you can determine what someone who searched for a particular term later did on your site. What further pages did they go to? Did they purchase a product or service? Without the search terms, you can’t do this degree of analysis.

That is, of course, unless you buy an ad. Conversion tracking at the keyword level turns into another sales feature for Google.

Didn’t Think Or Don’t Care?

I think the biggest reason Google hasn’t fixed the broken referrer problem is either that it just didn’t care about publishers or didn’t really think through the issues more.

Either is bad. The latter has some weight. Consider the last time that Google broke referrers, Cutts explained that the impact just hadn’t been considered:

[Cutts] says the team didn’t think about the referrer aspect. So they stopped. They’ve paused it until they can find out how to keep the referrers.

Surely someone had to have thought about the impact this time? Someone decided that it was a good idea to keep passing referrer information to advertisers. Someone decided that for whatever reason — and it wasn’t privacy — that publishers couldn’t keep getting this information. But what that reason is remains unclear.

Why Not Get Everyone To Be Secure?

What I do know is that Google missed a huge opportunity to make the entire web much more secure. Google could have declared that it was shifting its default search for everyone  – not just logged-in users — to be secure. Privacy advocates would have loved this even more than the current change which, using Google’s own figures, protect less than 10% of Google.com searchers.

Google could have also said that if anyone wanted to continue receiving referrer data, they needed to shift to running secure servers themselves. Remember, referrers pass from secure server to secure server.

Millions of sites quickly adopted Google +1 buttons in the hopes they might get more traffic from Google. Those same millions would have shifted — and quickly — over to secure servers in order to continue receiving referrer data.

Better protection across the web for everyone, while maintaining the unwritten contract between search engines and the publishers that support them to provide referrer data. That would have been a good solution. Instead, we got Google providing protection for a sliver of those searching, withholding data from the majority of sites that support it and solving problems only for its advertisers.

Moving Forward

I’m expecting to talk further to Google about these issues, which I raised with the company right after writing my initial story. I’m still waiting for them to find anyone appropriate higher up in the company to respond. Fingers-crossed. The best I could get so far was this statement:

We’ve tried to strike a balance here — improving privacy for signed in users while also continuing to provide substantial query data to webmasters.

To conclude, I think the move to secure searching is great. I’d like to see more of it.

As for referrers, there are some who do believe that they are private. Chris Soghoian is a leading advocate about this, and I’d recommend anyone who wants to understand more to read the blog post he wrote about an FTC complaint he filed over the issue. Read the complaint, too. Also see Duck Duck Go’s DontTrack.us site.

In terms of Google blocking referrers, it already blocks tons of stuff it considers private from its search suggestions. Conceivably, it could use the same technology to filter search referrers, to help publishers and protect users.

But aside from that, if Google thinks this needs to be done for privacy reasons, then it needs to block referrers for everyone and not still allow them to work for advertisers. That move is one of the most disturbing, hypocritical things I’ve ever seen Google do. It also needs to take the further step and stop its own Chrome browser from passing them.

If blocking referrers isn’t a privacy issue, then Google needs provider referrer data to all publishers, not just those who advertise.


Steve Jobs Remembered: 1955-2011

Steve Jobs remembered: ‘He wanted to make a dent in the universe’

Medical student and music lover Paul Jurgens made a detour on the way home from the gym when he learned about Steve Jobs’ death.

“It’s so sad,” said the 22-year-old, rattling off a long list of Apple products he has acquired. “(Steve Jobs) said he wanted to make a dent in the universe, and he did. This is the intersection of technology and humanity.”

Jurgens stood outside the Apple Store at Huron Street and Michigan Avenue amid an unusually large crowd about 8 p.m. Wednesday following the news that Jobs had died at 56.

Commuters waiting for the bus at Huron Street and Michigan Avenue looked on as TV news reporters interviewed Apple customers and passersby paused outside the store.

“It’s one of those things that you will remember where you were when you learned about it,” said Joe Gasper, 40, as he panned the storefront with his iPhone camera on record.

“I am glad to see it’s business as usual,” he said.

Angela Watkins of Chicago left the Apple Store without purchasing the iPad she covets.

“I love it,” she said. “But I bet you they will come out with an iPad 3 in his honor. I am going to wait for the next generation.”

Dr. Donald Liu, surgeon-in-chief of the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital, lingered outside the Apple Store while a group of medical professionals visiting from Shanghai perused inside.

“It’s amazing what he has been able to accomplish in spite of all the procedures he has had to stay alive,” said Liu, musing about how Jobs may have been driven to continue fighting his cancer by his commitment to Apple.

“I think it must have been like older parents who don’t die until they have seen their children for the last time,” he said.

Apple faithfuls said they are confident the company Jobs built will not crumble without him.

“It’s the experience. He stepped back and said, ‘what will the user feel?’” said Jurgens, a medical student originally from Batavia. “He was their leader. But I think Apple with continue to make magic for many years.”

Moments after Jurgens left, a new Facebook profile picture showed him across the street from the store, the Apple emblem glowing behind him.


Two new iPhones and iPad 3 in 2011?

Just weeks away from when Apple is expected to be unveiling the next iPhone, another Wall Street analyst has said the company could surprise us with two new handsets.

Fortune this morning posted part of a note from J.P. Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz saying that the firm expects Apple to release two new iPhones: one that will be a brand-new model with a different appearance, and a souped-up iPhone 4 model called the “iPhone 4-plus.”

“Our research indicates that there will be an iPhone 5 based on a lighter, thinner form factor that is GSM + CDMA capable, i.e., a ‘world-mode’ smartphone. A second device (4-plus) based on the current iPhone 4 but with some minor improvements could target the midrange and focus on China,” Moskowitz wrote. “As for the current iPhone 4, we expect it to subsume 3GS as the lower-end offering.”

Moskowitz also weighs in on rumors of Apple considering the release of a third-generation iPad before year’s end, saying Apple’s in “no rush” to replace its existing models based on lackluster competition.

“The other tablet entrants have stumbled,” Moskowitz wrote. “Offerings by MMI and RIM have been the latest disappointments. Also, we had the opportunity to demo Sony’s tablet before its launch. We were not impressed.”

Reports earlier this year claimed Apple was gunning to release a new model of the iPad in time for the holiday shopping season. A tech blog called This Is My Next claimed in July that Apple was working on a special HD model that would be sold alongside the iPad 2. Taiwan-based news site DigiTimes followed, saying Apple was cooking up a thinner iPad model with an improved display, called the “iPad 2 Plus.” Not to be outdone, the Taiwan Economic News said a new iPad model would be ready by Thanksgiving.

In August, things started looking bad for those rumors though. Two analysts told CNET that a new iPad wouldn’t be ready until next year because its high-resolution display was difficult to make in the volume Apple needed. Mobile processor industry tracking firm the Linley Group also said Apple’s next-generation, four-core A6 processor would not be ready until the middle of 2012, meaning a new device would have to use the same processors in the current iPad 2 model.

As for two new iPhones, this is not the first such suggestion that Apple plans do so, something that would be a first for the company. A Deutsche Bank analyst in June said that Apple was working on a similar configuration of a high-end new model, and improved iPhone 4 model for release this year. Evidence suggesting that might be the case surfaced a few days later, with a screenshot of a white plastic iPhone 4 model on Vietnamese site Tinhte–the same outlet that got ahold of the iPhone 4 ahead of its official unveiling.

More recently, there have been murmurs of two iPhone model offerings as part of deals being worked out with Chinese carriers, which are expected to carry the new iPhone when it’s released. Moskowitz highlights China and its potentially massive subscriber base as one of the main reasons for offering a lower cost iPhone 4-plus model, but that he does not expect it to be exclusive to the region.

Apple is expected to release its next iPhone model in October, with a possible unveiling of the device later this month.
Via CNET


Launching Google Wallet on Sprint and working with Visa, American Express and Discover

In May we announced Google Wallet—an app that makes your phone your wallet—with Citi, MasterCard, Sprint and First Data. With Google Wallet, you can tap, pay and save using your phone and near field communication (NFC).

We’ve been testing it extensively, and today we’re releasing the first version of the app to Sprint. That means we’re beginning to roll out Google Wallet to all Sprint Nexus S 4G phones through an over-the-air update—just look for the “Wallet” app. Here’s a demo of Google Wallet in action:

Google Wallet enables you to pay with your Citi MasterCard credit card and the Google Prepaid Card, which can be funded with any of your existing plastic credit cards. As a thanks to early adopters, we’re adding a $10 free bonus to the Google Prepaid Card if you set it up in Google Wallet before the end of the year.

When we announced Google Wallet, we pledged a commitment to an open commerce ecosystem. We appreciate Citi and MasterCard for being our launch partners. And today, Visa, Discover and American Express have made available their NFC specifications that could enable their cards to be added to future versions of Google Wallet.

Our goal is to make it possible for you to add all of your payment cards to Google Wallet, so you can say goodbye to even the biggest traditional wallets. In fact, we’ve got a video of our first customer, someone who is ready to replace his famously over-stuffed wallet. We hope Google Wallet gives him “serenity now.”

This is still just the beginning, and while we’re excited about this first step, we look forward to bringing Google Wallet to more phones in the future. You can learn more about Google Wallet at google.com/wallet.

Via Google Blog


Facebook to Launch “Major” Profile Redesign at f8

Facebook plans to roll out a major redesign of user profiles at its f8 developer conference this week.

Details about the redesign are sparse, but two sources familiar with Facebook’s plans (who have asked to remain anonymous) have told us that the redesign is “major” and will make Facebook profiles nexuses for consuming content.

The profile changes will be part of a wider launch, one that will include launch of a music and media platform.

Here’s what we know so far about the profile redesign:

  • The redesigned profiles will be more “sticky,” says one source. One of the goals of the new profiles is to get users to stay on them for longer.
  • We already knew Facebook is launching a media platform at f8. However, we’ve also learned that the platform — which will include music and video from partner sites — will display the media content a user is watching or listening to on their profiles. Essentially, when you’re listening to Lady Gaga on Spotify, your friends can see and access that on your Facebook profile. This confirms a recent New York Times report.
  • The redesigned profiles are part of a larger push into social ecommerce. We don’t exactly know what that means, but we’ve heard whispers that Facebook intends to give Facebook Credits more prominence. We’ve also heard that a Facebook app store may emerge at f8.
  • Facebook’s push into ecommerce may be related Project Spartan, an HTML5-based mobile platform rumored to be launching soon.

Facebook is being tight-lipped about the changes; the company declined to comment on this story. However, more and more pieces of Facebook’s big launch continue to leak out as the excitement builds for f8. The company is currently under lockdown, trying to fix the final bugs before Thursday’s big launch.

What do you think Facebook will launch on Thursday? Let us know in the comments.

Via Mashable


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