Google’s on-by-default ‘Articles for You’ leverage browser dominance for 2,100 percent growth

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When you’ve got leverage, don’t be afraid to use it. That’s been Google’s modus operandi in the news and publishing world over the last year or so as it has pushed its AMP platform, funding various news-related ventures that may put it ahead, and nourished its personalized Chrome tabs on mobile. The latter, as Nieman Labs notes, grew 2,100 percent in 2017.

You may have noticed, since Chrome is a popular mobile browser and this setting is on by default, but the “Articles for You” appear automatically in every new tab, showing you a bunch of articles the company things you’d like. And it’s gone from driving 15 million article views to a staggering 341 million over the last year.

In late 2016, when Google announced the product, I described it as “polluting” the otherwise useful new tab page. I also don’t like the idea of being served news when I’m not actively looking for it — I understand that when I visit Google News (and I do) that my browser history (among other things) is being scoured to determine what categories and stories I’ll see. I also understand that everything I do on the site, as on every Google site, is being entered into its great data engine in order to improve its profile of me.

Like I said, when I visit a Google site, I expect that. But a browser is supposed to be a tool, not a private platform, and the idea that every tab I open is another data point and another opportunity for Google to foist its algorithms on me is rankling.

It has unsavory forebears. Remember Internet Explorer 6, which came with MSN.com as the default homepage? That incredible positioning drove so much traffic that for years after (and indeed, today) it drove disgusting amounts of traffic to anything it featured. But that traffic was tainted: you knew that firehose was in great part clicks from senior citizens who thought MSN was the entire internet.

Of course the generated pages for individual users aren’t the concentrated fire of a link on a major portal, but they are subject to Google approval and, of course, the requisite ranking bonus for AMP content. Can’t forget that!

But wherever you see the news first, that’s your news provider. And you can’t get much earlier than “as soon as you open a new tab.” That’s pretty much the ultimate positioning advantage.

Just how this amazing growth occurred is unclear. If there’s been any word of mouth, I missed it. “Have you tried scrolling down? The news is just right there!” It seems unlikely. My guess would be that the feature has been steadily rolling out in new regions, opting in new users who occasionally scroll down and see these stories.

And unlike many other news distribution platforms, there isn’t much for publishers or sites like this one to learn about it. How are stories qualified for inclusion? Is there overlap with Google News stuff? What’s shown if people aren’t signed in? I’ve asked Google for further info.

Do you, like me, dislike the idea that every time you open a tab — not just when you use its services — Google uses it as an opportunity to monetize you, however indirectly? Fortunately, and I may say consistent with Google’s user-friendliness in this type of thing, you can turn it off quite easily — on iOS, anyway.

Open the menu at the top right of any tab and hit settings. There should be a “Suggested articles” toggle — disable that and you’re done. While you’re at it, you might just head into Privacy and disable search and site suggestions and usage data.

On Android? You’ll have to dig into the app’s flags and toggle the hidden setting there. Not as user-friendly.

Mobile – TechCrunch

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Newly-revealed 2016 internal memo says Facebook growth justified even if it kills someone

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A memo written in 2016 has just come to light in which a Facebook VP argues that ‘questionable’ and deceptive tactics to grow the platform are justified – even if they cost someone their life.

The memo was written by one of Facebook’s longest-serving execs, Andrew “Boz” Bosworth …

more…

9to5Mac

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Facebook is defending itself again after an internal memo suggested growth was more important than user safety

How Complete Beginners are using an ‘Untapped’ Google Network to create Passive Income ON DEMAND

Facebook exec Andrew “Boz” Bosworth

From the 2016 memo: “Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools … And still we connect people.”

Facebook’s bad month is getting even worse — now because of an internal memo by one of the company’s top executives that suggests, among other things, that Facebook’s mission to connect people is more important than user safety.

The memo, which was published by BuzzFeed, is from Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, one of Facebook’s longest-tenured execs and one of CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s closest colleagues. The memo, from 2016, is titled “The Ugly,” and highlights that Facebook’s work doesn’t always have positive outcomes.

Here’s a key part of the memo:

We connect people.

That can be good if they make it positive. Maybe someone finds love. Maybe it even saves the life of someone on the brink of suicide.

So we connect more people

That can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools.

And still we connect people.

The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is *de facto* good. It is perhaps the only area where the metrics do tell the true story as far as we are concerned.

Shortly after BuzzFeed’s story went live Bosworth tweeted to say he doesn’t agree with the post, and that it was intended to create “debate about hard topics.”

“The purpose of this post, like many others I have written internally, was to bring to the surface issues I felt deserved more discussion with the broader company,” he wrote.

Zuckerberg quickly issued a statement via a company spokesperson also condemning the memo, and saying Facebook specifically made changes in 2017 to better reflect its mission.

“Boz is a talented leader who says many provocative things,” Zuckerberg’s statement reads. “This was one that most people at Facebook including myself disagreed with strongly. We’ve never believed the ends justify the means. We recognize that connecting people isn’t enough by itself. We also need to work to bring people closer together. We changed our whole mission and company focus to reflect this last year.”

Whether or not Boz believed what he wrote, the memo matters because it highlights what people outside of Silicon Valley often fear about Silicon Valley: That big tech companies don’t actually care about the people who use their services, only that those people serve as data points that help tech companies grow.

Bosworth, after Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, has become Facebook’s most visible executive, often active on Twitter, responding to critics and news stories about the company’s latest controversies.

Facebook, in particular, has earned a reputation over the years as a place that prioritizes business over all else — the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal is a primary example. A lot of people don’t actually believe that Facebook feels bad that user data fell into the wrong hands. They just believe that Facebook feels bad it got caught.

A memo like this will only fuel that disconnect. Was Boz simply trying to point out that there are negative side effects to building the internet, which is essentially what Facebook has become to large portions of the world? Perhaps. It’s important that executives understand the impact that tech companies can have on the world, and the memo shows that Boz and Facebook are, at the very least, aware of the potential consequences of their work.

But it also puts Facebook — and the rest of Silicon Valley — back into a box it has been trying to get out of for years. It’s hard to win user trust if people don’t feel like they matter.

Recode – All

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Leaked Facebook memo: ‘ugly truth’ justified any growth tactics

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Buzzfeed has published an internal Facebook memo entitled "The Ugly" from 2016 that shows just how much emphasis the social network places on growth above safety, privacy and everything else. Written by Facebook VP Andrew "Boz" Bosworth, one of Mark…
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Services poised to overthrow iPhone as Apple’s growth engine

How Complete Beginners are using an ‘Untapped’ Google Network to create Passive Income ON DEMAND

Apple’s long run of being an iPhone company is about to come to an end. With iPhone X sales supposedly slipping, Apple’s days of depending on device sales for growth are almost over. But according to Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty, services will contribute more to Apple’s growth over the next five years than the […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)

Cult of Mac

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Explosive Apple Services growth expected to be main engine for future revenue expansion

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Apple may not be reliant on massive seasonal sales of the iPhone going forward for steady revenue growth, if a new analyst report is accurate.
AppleInsider – Frontpage News

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Macbook growth could exceed both iPhone and iPad this year, analyst says

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Apple may be looking at a huge year for MacBooks, with growth having a chance to exceed that of every other Apple product line, including the iPhone and iPad.
AppleInsider – Frontpage News

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Former Walmart employee says company lied about online growth

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A former Walmart director claims the company lied about results and online growth in order to, “win the e-commerce war at all costs,” according to a lawsuit. The news comes just a day after Walmart announced a big push to spread its online grocery delivery and online ordering services to the vast majority of its US stores in a bid to fend off rival big box stores, as well as Amazon.

According to Bloomberg, Tri Huynh, a former director of business development for Walmart, raised concerns about possible improper practices the company was using to show e-commerce growth, its progress ahead of competing retailers, and how competitive the company was against Amazon. Huynh claims he was terminated in January 2017 as a result.

These…

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A former Walmart executive’s lawsuit claims the retailer has been inflating e-commerce growth numbers

How Complete Beginners are using an ‘Untapped’ Google Network to create Passive Income ON DEMAND

Tri Huynh, a former business development executive, says he was fired for raising concerns over the company’s practices.

Is Walmart cheating in its race to close the gap between Amazon and its own online business?

A new lawsuit from a former Walmart business development executive claims it is.

The suit, filed this week in Northern California federal court by Tri Huynh, alleges that Walmart has been lowering its standards to boost the size of its online catalogue; mis-categorizing some items listed for sale, which can result in overcharging some merchants who sell through Walmart.com; and failing to process $ 7 million in returned items.

Huynh says that he was terminated from his job in 2017 as retaliation for being a whistleblower by repeatedly bringing his concerns to e-commerce division leaders, and is suing for unspecified damages.

“This litigation is based on allegations by a disgruntled former associate, who was let go as part of an overall restructuring,” a Walmart rep tells Recode. “We take allegations like this seriously and looked into them when they were brought to our attention. The investigation found nothing to suggest that the company acted improperly. We intend to vigorously defend the company against these claims.”

The suit comes as Walmart has pumped billions of dollars into its e-commerce business over the last few years, including the acquisition of Jet.com, to improve its websites and narrow Amazon’s lead in the space.

Huynh, who worked for Amazon previously, joined Walmart in 2014 as a director of business development for its online marketplace, which allows outside sellers to hawk their wares on Walmart.com alongside Walmart’s own products.

Huynh said lax internal controls allowed for frequent miscategorization of items sold by marketplace sellers, resulting in Walmart charging them a higher commission on sales than it should have. The suit also claimed that Walmart boasts about the size of its online catalogue but counts items that aren’t actually available for customers to purchase.

He also alleged that the giant retailer lowered its standards by allowing low-rated sellers to flood the Walmart.com marketplace with overpriced goods to artificially boost the number of items Walmart publicly claims are available through its marketplace.

Huynh said the lowering of standards resulted in an influx of inappropriate items, such as mugs labeled with phrases like “got Hitler?” and “got retard?”

Bloomberg first reported news of the lawsuit.

This post has been updated with a comment from Walmart.


Recode – All

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Refurbished, high-end iPhones are suffocating the growth of cheap new Androids

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The fastest growing segment in global smartphones isn’t Google’s vision for super-cheap, simple Android phones. Instead, according to new market data, it’s refurbished high-quality phones that carry a desirable brand but can be sold at a more affordable price, a segment where Apple is "leading by a significant margin."
AppleInsider – Frontpage News

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