Archive for ‘Corporate’

March 2, 2012

Google Maps: Foreign affairs and social skirmishes

Google Earth and Google Maps are probably the most popular, free, online cartography reference tools for the public. Popularity is not the same as authority though[1]:

The lines that Google draws on maps have no government’s imprimatur.

Foreign affairs

Google should not be involved in geopolitical disputes. If Google Maps show borders or place names that are different from official or long-established usage, they can confuse, offend or worse, even if done unintentionally[2]:

On Nov. 3, 2010, a Nicaraguan official justified his country’s incursion into neighboring Costa Rica’s territory by claiming that, contrary to the customary borderline, he wasn’t trespassing. For proof, he [cited] Google Maps.

Google Map art

Map markers away! Fighting the cartographic unknown

Google DOES try to offer meaningful, accurate maps.

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October 20, 2011

Google for investors with 3Q 2011 update

This post will focus on Google the corporate entity, and not a product review or news (or humor with pictures and video) that is my usual subject here In the GooglePlex.

Google for investors

Google, Inc. is listed as GOOG on the NASDAQ. The corporate website for Google Investor Relations is http://investor.google.com

Have a look at (and consider bookmarking) the Events and Webcast page of the Investor Relations website. I find that to be the most convenient way to check on the status of any Google corporate news or document releases.

Current status of Google as a going concern

Google released third quarter financial information last week, for the three months ending September 30, 2011. Revenue is up 33% over 3Q 2010, and profits have increased 26%.

Android logo pillow

Google Android close-up

Some analysts expressed concern over the recent acquisition of Motorola as well as the Google mobile phone product, Android. Patent-related troubles are the primary reason for that. The full length version of the official press release is always available to the public, straight from the source: Google Announces 3Q 2011 Financial Results.

The slide presentation* accompanying every quarterly financial announcement is posted on the Google Investor Relations site, which is probably the quickest way to get access to it. The 3Q 2011 slides [PDF] are there already, although XBRL data, which is of less general interest to the public, hasn’t been posted yet.

XBRL is an abbreviation for eXtensible Business Reporting Language. I don’t recall how quickly the Google 2Q 2011 XBRL files were posted. XBRL files are in ZIP format. They are part of recent financial reforms related to the Dodd-Frank bill. Publicly traded (exchange listed) companies are required to use XBRL for better standardization of financial reporting for regulatory compliance purposes. This is required of all companies, and does not reflect negatively on Google, who has a good record with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. In fact, one of the most upbeat, unequivocally positive posts to emerge from that Dark Horse, Zero Hedge (some of whose dire predictions are coming true, reflecting present conditions rather well) is about Google. Yes, it would be fair to say that Zero Hedge is actually bullish on Google: Our Growth Projection For Google Is Intact and Performing Well.

Opinion from a corner of a foreign field that wishes it were in the GooglePlex

I’ll share some ad hoc thoughts of my own, not to be taken as investment advice in any way, shape or form. I am not licensed to recommend, act as adviser nor broker in any financial instruments. I own no shares of Google stock. Keep in mind that this is my Google hobby blog, so I am obviously biased in favor of the company. I love the green Android, he is so sweet and cute.

Google has spread itself thin. There is a rather dour but sober post over at Read Write Web by Jon Mitchell that alludes to such. But steps are being taken to address that. Many, myself included, mourn the September 2011 closure of Google Labs, and the wonderful projects it offered. Yet this is an example of how Google is taking action to focus on products that are most likely to generate revenue. And also most likely to help mainstream users.

One must remember that Google is not a public utility, nor a government agency. Google provides a great many services that have zero profit potential, such as free Google Code Hosting for open source projects, server space to house the Usenet bulletin boards of the past etc.

Customer service

Google is not perfect. Advertising remains a primary revenue source. To-date, Google AdSense and AdWords revenue was primarily from e-commerce customers who don’t require much in the way of user support. Google needs to improve its customer support, particularly as an enterprise provider of custom search solutions such as the Google Search Appliance, and most visibly, Google Apps.

Social

I am not too concerned about Google Plus and its competitive positioning versus Facebook. Google+ is new, has glitches, and may be of interest to a smaller subset of the population than Facebook. That’s okay though. Facebook is 100% about social (note that the Facebook Places project was discontinued). Facebook doesn’t try, nor need to be a search engine too. Similarly, it is great that Google offers social features, a nice “extra”. However, Google’s core business is search and information retrieval. Advertising revenue finances that, and social features facilitate advertising.

* Google quarterly earnings slide presentations all have a similar format and character. As an example, you can glance at the slide presentation that accompanied the 2Q 2011 Google announcement. I found it on Scribd, before I knew about the Google Investor Relations website. This is for the quarter ending June 30, 2011 (whereas the link in the paragraph above was for the most current 3Q data):

May 12, 2011

Google users pressed into service in war against spam

Google (GOOG) recently made an official announcement offering a Personal Blocklist extension for Chrome browser users. I am weighted down with far too many Chrome browser extensions already, so I haven’t tested this one. Technology press coverage of the news slightly surprised me:

Google (GOOG) is concluding that if people are so up in arms about its declining search results, then it will let the masses get to work in helping refine its search technology…

Users to spot Spam Sites

Spam Protection Extension for Chrome browser

While amusing (I’ve supplemented my TechCrunch reading with GigaOM lately), it was more in line with what I expect from The Onion. Yet it is correct. The size and growth of the spam problem warrants this reaction from the press, as well as the public and many businesses. All express frustration with spam and electronic detritus.

Google is addressing spam with a two-pronged initiative, it seems to me. The Google War on Content Farms  of a few weeks earlier was directed at particularly spammy e-commerce merchants and services. The Personal Blocklist browser extension is the second part, and directed at e-commerce consumers and users in general.

Basic search

Search!

In a worst case scenario, this can be viewed as a sign that the internet will soon become almost unusable due to clutter from impenetrable volumes of advertisements and duplication of once original but now outdated content. That is the most generalized definition of spam. As a matter of quality control Google DOES need to provide meaningful resultswith a minimum of spam, to Google Search 2.0. users.

What can be done?

Is Google evil?

Is it Google’s fault? Is Google greedy and betraying the pubic’s best interests? No, not particularly.

Google is a publicly traded company, a business with stockholders. It is not a public utility. Google employees and Google operations are not funded by the taxpayers of any nation. It is very easy to forget that. The model of free online services is wonderful, and benefits everyone, everywhere, particularly in countries where what is considered a nominal cost in the U.S.A. would be prohibitively expensive. Much of the U.S. and global economy, as well as the public in general, are dependent upon free Google services to some degree. This is analogous to physical infrastructure. It is digital infrastructure.

Infrastructure is usually part of the public sector

In order to fund the model of free internet search, and free Google products, Google sells online advertising. And so the World Wide Web’s spam problem reduces in some part, though not entirely, to the principal agent problem. Moral hazard. Conflict of interest.

Avoidance of moral hazard is a major benefit of having a public sector, and government. When the public sector functions as it should, it reduces biased behavior due to profit-seeking and other motives.

The dilemma for Google as a company

Google needs the advertising revenue provided by AdSense customers (some of whom are the Content Farmers). That is why Google must offer a quality product to the public. Not because the public are Google customers. Google search is free of charge. While it may be unethical to sell a poor-quality product, there is no law against offering crummy goods and services free of charge. That happens all the time. No one wants something that is useless or gives much less value than an alternative provider.

Good corporate citizenship is a consideration, but only a minor one. Google must provide a quality product because the public’s use of free Google products drives revenue from customers. Google is obligated to:

  • Customers. Primary customers are advertisers and revenue-generating businesses, for-profit and otherwise
  • Employees. The people whose paycheck it provides for going to work every day

Remember though that the motivation for these obligations is that they may in turn give value to shareholders in the company itself.

The war against the Content Farmers is dangerous for Google. The Google anti-spam efforts must be targeted enough to cut spam and increase search user satisfaction while not alienating the source of funding that sustains Google and allows the company to offer services at all.

January 3, 2011

Android Before Space Flight

Android PreSpace Flight

Google Android Pre-Flight Preparation