The first Google Doodle was an out-of-office message. The day was August 30, 1998 — nearly two years after Larry Page and Sergey Brin had built a search engine in a Stanford dorm room, and less than a week before Google would officially incorporate as a company. Google was so young then, indeed, that it still had a Yahoo!-style exclamation mark as part of its logo.
Despite and maybe because of all the chaos that would come with incorporation, Brin and Larry Page spent the last week of August 1998 to go to the Burning Man festival. But before the pair could engage in some radical self-expression and/or radical self-reliance in the Nevada desert, they needed something a little less radical: a way to let people know they were away. The pair decided on a little icon — the Burning Man logo — and placed the spare stick figure behind Google’s second “o.” They published the new image to their site on the World Wide Web.
The challenge is simple. Simple enough for a child to explain. In fact it’s a child’s voice, over a rolling piano and elegant animation that introduced Google’s bold new step into the future: Project Loon. “For each person that can get online, there are two that can’t… What if there was a way to light up the entire world? And make all of the world’s information accessible to all of the world’s people?”
It’s a challenge that Google aims to answer — with a soaring, international balloon armada, beaming Internet to the parts of the world that don’t have it.
Project Loon has gotten a fair amount of attention. The few advertisements Google has released emphasize an idealist bent and the humanitarian potential of bringing a connection to the farthest reaches of the developing world. Criticism, from the likes of Bill Gates and others, has focused on whether the world’s poor need social networking and streaming video as much as medicine and food.
The proposed delivery system has thus far escaped similar scrutiny, which is too bad, because the very mechanics of Project Loon highlight serious legal, diplomatic, and government tensions, which Google is either ignoring, unaware of, or operating in spite of. And yet, that said, it’s not Google’s job to enforce regulatory oversight; breaking ground means new rules have to be invented, too.
Read more. [Image: Google]
We think of “engine” as a mechanical device, but the word has roots that go way further back, and illuminate some of its newer meanings.
Read more. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]
It turns out that the NSA’s domestic and world-wide surveillance apparatus is even more extensive than we thought. Bluntly: The government has commandeered the Internet. Most of the largest Internet companies provide information to the NSA, betraying their users. Some, as we’ve learned, fight and lose. Others cooperate, either out of patriotism or because they believe it’s easier that way.
I have one message to the executives of those companies: fight.
Do you remember those old spy movies, when the higher ups in government decide that the mission is more important than the spy’s life? It’s going to be the same way with you. You might think that your friendly relationship with the government means that they’re going to protect you, but they won’t. The NSA doesn’t care about you or your customers, and will burn you the moment it’s convenient to do so.
We’re already starting to see that. Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and others are pleading with the government to allow them to explain details of what information they provided in response to National Security Letters and other government demands. They’ve lost the trust of their customers, and explaining what they do — and don’t do — is how to get it back. The government has refused; they don’t care.
Read more. [Image: The Washington Post]
Google has hatched a plan to boost the visibility of its existing local news product, and in the process is testing a whole new way to get people to pay attention to the news that is geographically most relevant to them.
Google is testing a local news “card” in its Google Now service, which is built into all new Android smartphones and is available on the iPhone through Google’s Search app. Google Now is a logical vehicle for local news because one of its primary functions is knowing where you are and providing information that is “contextually relevant" to you, as specified by your interests, the time of day, and your location.
This beta test has not been previously disclosed, and is currently being carried out solely within Google itself, but its existence was revealed to me last week in an interview with Johanna Wright, vice president of search and assist at Google.
Read more. [Image: Darryl Dyck/AP]
We all know sex sells. The question is whether tired jokes about it do, too.
Israel is the world’s second-largest destination for hi-tech venture capital, after Silicon Valley. Often called the “Start-up Nation,” part of Israel’s economic strategy has always been to sell start-ups to foreign companies. According to a recent Jerusalem Post article, over 95 percent of Israeli start-ups sell to foreign businesses. Traditionally, these acquisitions have required the start-up to move most of its operations overseas, often while keeping a small R&D center in Israel. This creates a complex dynamic: a large number of talented Israeli science and engineering professionals move abroad for economic opportunities, and many never come back. Fourteen percent of Israelis with doctorates in science and engineering have left Israel for at least three years, compared with 3.8 percent of those with degrees in the humanities and social sciences, and 17.7 percent of Israelis with a PhD in engineering choose overseas employment.
But Waze, an Israeli traffic navigation application that was bought by Google for approximately $1 billion last month, bucks the trend by staying put: One of its key demands was that its Israeli employees remain in Israel. Google agreed to this requirement while other interested buyers, including Facebook, did not. Waze’s exit was the fourth-largest buyout in Google’s history.
Read more. [Image: Nir Elias/Reuters]
The project, “Memories for the Future,” began with a team from Google Streetview compiling a set of before-and-after panoramas of the region’s street network. Now, with demolition imminent, Google has begun constructing three-dimensional interior maps of dozens of public buildings as well. Like Streetview, they are freely navigable.
[…] The scenes are strange, sad, sometimes beautiful. In Rikuzentataka’s Municipal Kesen Elementary School, flooded by a surge in the Kesen River, children’s toys lie scattered in the rubble. On the first floor of the Rikizentakata City Office, where the carcass of a silver car has come to rest, a purple vase sits boldly on a ledge.
Read more. [Images: GoogleMaps]
As Google’s Street View cars rumble through our cities and towns, they don’t capture merely the geography of our streets and buildings. They see and record the life there, people going about their days.
Those inadvertent portraits are now moving back from the digital realm to our earthly one, in artist Paolo Cirio’s projectStreet Ghosts.
Cirio finds images of humans on the streets of Street View and creates life-sized prints of them, and places them back on the spot where they were originally captured, such as in the picture above, taken from a Street View image of Dircksenstrasse in Berlin. As he describes it, his project exposes “the specters of Google’s eternal realm of private, misappropriated data: the bodies of people captured by Google’s Street View cameras, whose ghostly, virtual presence I marked in Street Art fashion at the precise spot in the real world where they were photographed.”