Harry Potter + Google = Love

As the resident Google fan, I am happy to report that there is a whole lot of interesting Google news this week.  It seems that Google doesn’t do news weeks in half measures.

First up is political news — both Google and Facebook have spent more money during this quarter on lobbyists than they have ever spent previously.  Both companies have had some run ins with the FTC and are now throwing money at theproblem.  Google is spending way more than Facebook, though — $2.06 million in the second quarter to Facebook’s $320,000.  For the first time ever, they even spent more than Microsoft!

To further their attempts to take over the internet, Google is also planning on offering a low-interest credit card to advertisers on AdWords.  It’ll be a MasterCard without an annual fee and a 8.99% APR, but can only be used for ads.  The idea is that small businesses can get some credit for big ad campaigns at holidays without having to have funds for it on hand.

Google is also offering a new feature in Gmail that allows you to use more than one line at a time.  The multi-call feature lets you put people on hold and pick up another call at the same time — a normal call waiting function that’s relatively new to the online phone services.  They actually are going to offer the full call waiting function, meaning that you get notified of incoming calls and can choose to answer and put people on hold and all that jazz, but you can only use two outgoing calls at a time.

Google+ continues to grow, gathering a fairly young demographic.  It’s currently the 42nd most visited social networking site in the US.  Google+ has grown by 821% since the week of July 2nd and has a much larger percentage of women than originally estimated, meaning that it’s probably not just engineers and internet nerds who are jumping on the bandwagon.  In an attempt to compete with Apple and Facebook, Google+ will be offering games and taking a much lower percentage of revenue from games — approximately 5% compared to the normal 30%.  Google also will host the games on their own servers, theoretically making them faster and less buggy.

Google will be shutting down Google Labs, a feature that allowed users to test run experimental features on different websites.  For example, the popular beer goggles that requires you to do simple math to access your email late at night on the weekends, to try to prevent drunk emailing.  They say that many of the features in Calendar or Gmail won’t be going away, but it’s unclear what exactly is going and staying.  The good news is that just because there will be no more labs doesn’t mean that the 20% rule is going away — Google employees are supposed to spend 20% of their work time on personal pet projects out of which many of the labs have emerged.

And finally, of personal interest to me, is Google’s announcement that it is teaming up with JK Rowlings Pottermore to make the Harry Potter books available through Google eBooks.  Google will also get exclusive payment rights for all Pottermore.com purchases, edging out PayPal and Amazon Payments.  With Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 set to be the first of the series to reach 1 billion, it seems that despite the fact that Harry Potter is about to be 15 years old, it’s still a major draw.

Originally Posted at SocialAxcess.com

Google +1 Button: Not Buzz

Google has apparently not learned its lesson when it comes to getting involved in social ventures, and is rolling out a new feature called the +1 button, which is essentially equivalent to Facebook’s “Like” button.  If you’ve got a Google profile, you can see what your friends with Google Profiles have +1ed and, unlike Facebook, you don’t send out notifications every time you +1 something.  In other words, you only see +1s when you get the site in a search result anyway, so it’s like a personal recommendation tailored to your search.

See +1s

 The other thing that is slightly different than the “like” button is that Google is integrating the results into their overall search engine algorithm.  Though they haven’t explained exactly how that will work, one assumes that sites with more +1s will end up higher in the search results than those that haven’t been +1ed.  We’ll see how long it takes for businesses to try to take advantage of that.

Social media has been a struggle for Google, especially since their debacle last year with Buzz.  Although they immediately addressed the privacy concerns and general uproar, Buzz failed to take off and it earned them a visit from the US Federal Trade Commission for being misleading in their tactics and not upfront about their services.

This +1 button seems to be a nice marriage of what Google already does well, searching, with the more social aspects of the web.  Hopefully they can avoid the criticisms they had with Buzz, since this will be strictly opt-in, and it seems like it could further personalize web search results, which is great.

Here's the video introduction from Google: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAyUNI3_V2c