A U.S. federal appeals court ruled that the National Security Agency’s phone surveillance program, which collects logs of Americans’ phone calls in bulk (as NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden exposed nearly two years ago), is illegal. Meanwhile, the Senate is deciding whether to renew or revise three expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, including the one that the NSA interpreted as allowing its phone surveillance; Section 215 is set to expire June 1.
Google officially confirmed that searches on mobile devices exceed the number of searches on desktop computers in 10 countries, including the U.S. and Japan. Speaking of mobile search, the mobile-friendly algorithm update dubbed "Mobilegeddon," which Google rolled out worldwide beginning April 21, did not have the apocalyptic impact on rankings that people had feared, though some sites did lose rankings in Google mobile search results.
Google will be shutting down its PageSpeed Service effective August 3, 2015. Website owners will need to move any sites hosted on PageSpeed Service to a new DNS by that date. (Note: This does not affect Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.)
In Google Webmaster Tools, the new Search Analytics report went live for all accounts. A replacement for the popular Search Queries report (which will continue to be available for three additional months), Search Analytics offers better filtering options and, according to Google, more accurate data.
Google+ launched a new feature called Collections, which lets users gather content related to a certain topic or passion (similar to Pinterest pins). Other people can follow a collection that interests them whether or not they follow the person or page that set it up.
Google AdWords Vice President of Product Jerry Dischler announced AdWords innovations in a livestream broadcast on May 5, including new advertising offerings in three vertical markets — cars, hotels and mortgages — as well as improvements to Dynamic Search Ads and the reporting dashboard for automated bidding.
Retailers and others can now include Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs) to display with their YouTube videos, controlling exactly how the ad looks and when it appears. Google’s new TrueView for shopping also helps marketers pinpoint the moment when a viewer decides to convert.
In coming weeks Google will introduce a Buy Now button that can go in mobile search ads, according to the Wall Street Journal. A mobile searcher could click the Buy Now button to go straight from a SERP to a Google-provided product purchase page complete with customizing options such as size and color. Unlike affiliate networks, Google will not charge anything extra to be the marketplace; revenue will be generated just as with AdWords, on a pay-per-click basis. The new functionality pits Google against retail giants like Amazon and eBay, who are also some of Google’s top advertisers.
Google released the results of a study on ad injectors, which are programs that insert unwanted ads, or replace existing ads, in web pages as an infected user browses the web. Ad injector programs pose a security threat to users, rob publishers of advertising revenue, and also cause more Chrome user complaints than any other issue. Besides raising awareness, Google’s research has enabled the company to take action combating ad injectors in Chrome, AdWords, and other Google platforms.
In local SEO news, Google has launched the ability to show local business orders and appointments in Google Search or Google Maps results. Searchers can click links to reserve a table, place an order, or accomplish other actions directly in the SERP. Local businesses must enable this feature in their Google My Business dashboard; available actions use third-party booking and ordering services.
Google Maps fell victim to spam attacks and pranks by people taking advantage of Map Maker’s openness to crowdsourced input. Google shut off Map Maker temporarily starting May 12. When the system became active again, more egregious edits slipped through, resulting in many map locations being returned for racist and vulgar search queries. Google apologized and promised to apply "Googlebomb" protection to Google Maps.
Google took away the Recent Posts section, which used to display an excerpt of the business’s most recent Google+ post, from the local-business Knowledge Panel in search results pages.
Twitter announced plans to acquire marketing technology firm TellApart, which is expected to enhance Twitter’s direct response, cross-device advertising capabilities.
Twitter’s live streaming video app, Periscope, has been released for Android with some enhanced features compared to the previously released iOS version.
Twitter has been spotted testing a new user-interface feature that makes it easier to follow new people without having to go to their profiles first. The feature is a new person icon below a tweet next to the usual reply, retweet and favorite buttons.
The first implementation of Google’s promised Twitter firehose surfaced last week. Google is making real-time tweets appear in mobile search results on the Google app (on Android and iOS) and on Google.com in English in mobile browsers.
Microsoft announced that Windows 10 will be the last version of Windows software. Instead, Windows 10 will be delivered as a service that includes incremental and ongoing improvements. Release date is expected to be summer 2015, probably in late July.
It turns out that Microsoft was the mystery buyer trying to buy Salesforce; however, negotiations fizzled when the two couldn’t agree on a price.
Apple may be building a search engine of its own. The company is ramping up investment in developing Spotlight, its search feature, and its contract with Google as the default search provider for Apple’s Safari browser will expire at year end. Internally, Apple’s web search development is being led by the team it acquired in 2013 with social media search firm Topsy. Finally, a newly added support page confirms the existence of Applebot, "the web crawler for Apple."
Bing announced that its search engine will implement a mobile-friendly algorithm update sometime in the coming months. It will work similarly to Google’s recent update that made mobile-friendliness a ranking signal for mobile search. Already, “mobile-friendly” labels are appearing in Bing mobile results, and the search engine laid out four factors that determine mobile friendliness.
Deep linking into apps is now available on Bing, which says it supports AppLinks.org markup in addition to Schema.org markup.
Yahoo released a revamped version of Flickr, its photo-sharing service. New features include automatic uploads from mobile devices to private libraries, and Magic View, which enables Flickr to analyze the pixels in an image and automatically categorize it by subject.
Spotify is preparing to start streaming podcasts and short videos in addition to music. New content from media partners (including ESPN, ABC, Jimmy Kimmel, HowStuffWorks and others) will move Spotify beyond just audio to become a channel for news and entertainment.
Facebook introduced Instant Articles, interactive and fast news content from established news publishers that’s available only in the Facebook iPhone app for now. Nine initial partners include The New York Times, BuzzFeed, BBC News and National Geographic. Though Facebook has arguably the largest mass media audience ever, many publishers have felt uneasy jumping in. Facebook’s announcement addresses their fears by allowing publishers to monetize articles with their own ads (and keep 100 percent of the revenue) or with Facebook Audience Network ads (and share the revenue). In addition, Instant Articles content does not have to be published exclusively on Facebook, and publishers get to "track data and traffic through comScore and other analytics tools."
Creating yet another way to increase the number of news items in the News Feed, Facebook has been testing a new Add a Link feature, which lets mobile users do keyword searches and find website links to share. It’s a search engine that effectively keeps the user within the Facebook app and bypasses Google.
Ads in the Facebook News Feed can now contain a Call Now button, so mobile users can contact a business directly. The new button is the latest enhancement to Facebook’s local awareness ads, which benefit local businesses.
In international news, China’s dominant search engine, Baidu, quietly shut down its search service in Japan at the end of March. The company has instead been investing heavily in mobile search and apps, especially targeting the untapped market of Indonesia, where only 24 percent of the population has ever accessed the Internet.
Nokia Oyj is selling its global mapping technology, called HERE. Among the many bidders, Uber has teamed up with Baidu (the Chinese search engine) to try to win the mapping business.
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