[microsoft surface = our networked future]

I know what I want...NOW!

This is from the site's source code:

"Surface is the first commercially available surface computer from Microsoft Corp. It turns an ordinary tabletop into a vibrant, interactive surface. The product provides effortless interaction with digital content through natural gestures, touch and physical objects. In essence, it’s a surface that comes to life for exploring, learning, sharing, creating, buying and much more. Soon to be available in restaurants, hotels, retail and public entertainment venues, this experience will transform the way people shop, dine, entertain and live."


And yeah, I know there'll be some critque out there...seeing as Surface is only coming out in the winter of 2007 and won't be (initially) available to the public...but still - it's a cool idea.

[the business of new media]

With less than two weeks to go until the Women, Business & Blogging conference I found this article timely:From Postcards, to Podcasts.

"According to the American Advertising Federation's Media Investment Survey 2007, 73% of nearly 1,000 organizations polled said they are allotting up to 20% of their budgets for 'experimentation and new media options.' Further, 78% of respondents said they are 'always open to new ways of using traditional media.'"

Blogging is important for business:

Have a look at what Lori Reed, Director of Marketing at InsureMe.com has to say about search engine optimization:

Some key points from the article, well worth bearing in mind:


[google is good for business]

from slashdot:

"News.com ran an article earlier in the week talking about the somewhat strained relationship between newspapers and Google. Google's stance is firm: 'We don't pay to index news content.' Just the same, newspapers with an online presence are starting to reconsider their relationship with Google, the value of linking, and the realities of internet economics. Talk of paying for content, as well as ongoing court cases, has observers considering both sides of the issue:
"While some in newspaper circles point to the Belgium court ruling and the content deals with AP and AFP as a sign Google may be willing to pay for content, Google fans and bloggers interpreted the news quite differently. To them, it was obvious that the Belgium group had agreed to settle--even after winning its court case--because they discovered that they needed Google's traffic more than the fees that could be generated from news snippets. Observers note that with newspapers receiving about 25 percent of their traffic from search engines, losing Google's traffic had to sting."

"Google's position about paying newspapers to index headlines has never wavered. "We don't pay to index news content."


[blogging is good]

Less than two weeks until the Women, Business & Blogging conference! There are a few bursaries left so go ahead and apply.

The aim of the conference, as the title suggests, is to talk about the role blogging can play in business and yup, the focus is on women. As I'm thinking about this I've come across Penelope Trunk's popular post "Blogging Essential for a Good Company." A few interesting bits:

"Employers regularly Google prospective employees to learn more about them. Blogging gives you a way to control what employers see, because Google’s system works in such a way that blogs that are heavily networked with others come up high in Google searches."

And coming up high is good: “People who are more visible and have a reputation and stand for something do better than people who are invisible,” branding consultant Catherine Kaputa" says.

Here are Penelope's eight reasons on why exactly blogging is good:

1. Blogging creates a network.
A blogger puts himself out in the world as someone who is interesting and engaging — just the type of person everyone wants to meet. “A blog increases your network because a blog is about introducing yourself and sharing information,” says Kaputa.

2. Blogging can get you a job.
Dervala Hanley writes a quirky literary blog that got her a job is at Stone Yamashita Partners, a consulting firm that “tries to bring humanity to business.” Hanley told me that the firm was attracted to her ability to put her business experience into personal terms on the blog.

3. Blogging is great training.
To really get attention for your blog, you’re going to have to have daily entries for a while. At least a few months to get rolling, and then three or four times a week after that. So you will really get to know your topic well.

4. Blogging helps you move up quickly.
To escape the entry-level grind, you can either pay your dues, working up a ladder forever, or you can establish yourself as an expert in the world by launching a blog. High-level jobs are for people who specialize, and hiring managers look for specialists online. “Decision-makers respect Google-karma,” writes Tim Bray, director of Web technologies for Sun Microsystems — on his own blog, of course.

5. Blogging makes self-employment easier.
You can’t make it on your own unless you’re good at selling yourself. One of the most cost-effective and efficient ways of marketing yourself is with a blog. When someone searches for your product or service, make sure your blog comes up first.

Curt Rosengren, a career coach, periodically Googles “career passion” — words he thinks are most important to his business — just to make sure his blog, Occupational Adventure, comes up high on the list. He estimates that his blog generates at least half of his coaching business.

6. Blogging provides more opportunities.
Building brands, changing careers, launching a business — these endeavors are much easier once you’ve established yourself online. Rosengren told me, “My blog is a foundation. I’m building an awareness that I can leverage to do other fun things with my future, such as product development, or public speaking.”

A blog gives you a leg up when you meet someone new. Dylan Tweney, a freelance writer, told me his blog, the Tweney Review, gives him instant legitimacy with clients.

7. Blogging could be your big break.
Visually creative types can blog beyond just text. Mark Fearing has a cartoon blog. “Cartooning and illustration are very crowded fields,” he says. “My blog has gotten me more notice than any other publicity tool I’ve used. Plus, the blog gives me a way to have a new conversation with potential clients about other work.”

8. Blogging makes the world a better place.
“Blogging is about giving stuff away to a community,” says Day. “For years, as a junior developer, I would go to the Internet for solutions and I would always take, take, take. Now I am happy to be a contributor and give something back.”


[oh god - literally]

So the bible might be written by some good non-English speaking *male* authors but it remains a story. A story that some take much too seriously and a story in which others find peace. Whatever your interpretation of the bible I'm sure most people today would agree that it a story that acts as a filter (for some) for current life. How bizarre then that in PETERSBURG, Kentucky the Creation Museum has just opened. It cost 27 million American dollars to build an omage to the first story in the bible, genesis. This is a place where "Evolution gets its continual comeuppance, while biblical revelations are treated as gospel." How odd! Apparently for a growing number of Americans, the bible is the bedrock of his-tory, as the museum site proclaims: "Prepare to Believe." Now, that must be some immersive story-telling. "A fully engaging, sensory experience for guests. Murals and realistic scenery, computer-generated visual effects, over fifty exotic animals, life-sized people and dinosaur animatronics, and a special-effects theater complete with misty sea breezes and rumbling seats. These are just some of the impressive exhibits that everyone in your family will enjoy." I wonder if this will be like Disney-land for Christians: I can hear the kids begging for a ride on Noah's arc...well, they do charge you for it.

Read an article on the Creation Museum in the New York Times

For those interested in the teaching of science and not creationism a petition has been started by The Campaign to Defend the Constitution and has aimed it at educators. (the Answer in Genesis group behind the building of the Creation Museum aren't too happy with the petition)


[site stats]

I've had visits from google, yahoo, microsoft and some other techy firms but yesterday was the first visit from the U.S taxman or woman:

[digitise or...don't]

Perhaps the Digitise or Die panel at London's Southbank Center precipitated fresh uneasiness for Faber & Faber (chief exec. Stephen Page was a panel member), inducing a quick move to snap up rights to Beckett's works (ah...print). I guess Page hasn't yet been able to answer his own musing: "How do we make money online?" and possibly is feeling remorseful on Faber's behalf for turning down the opportunity that came up 50 years ago.

Samuel Beckett For the whole story see The Guardian:
"Fifty years after turning down the opportunity to publish Samuel Beckett's work outside the theatre, Faber and Faber have snapped up the rights to his fiction, non-fiction and poetry. The complicated four-way deal involving John Calder, the writer's estate and French publishers Editions de Minuit unites the English-language publishing rights to his work as a whole for the first time."


[cctv + traffic wardens = super wardens!]

'Super wardens' go on patrol
Alan Salter
23/ 5/2007

PRIVATELY-employed `super wardens' are to go on patrol in Greater Manchester wearing head-mounted video cameras.

The 20 parking attendants, who work for NCP Services, will be the first in the country to be issued with the equipment.

Their main role is to issue parking tickets but under legislation brought in last year they will also have powers to give on-the-spot fines for anti-social behaviour.

Salford council has asked the wardens to issue penalties up to £80 for offences which include littering, flyposting and allowing dogs to foul the pavement. NCP will use the film as evidence to back up their wardens if any fine is challenged and also in the event of any attack or abuse.

In some cases the footage could be handed to police and used in court.

The first wardens fitted with the RoboCop style cameras will go on patrol in Salford from the NCP HQ in Eccles next month.

"Tony" the Traffic Warden with his CCTV headset

The use of head-mounted cameras was piloted by British Transport Police in Manchester last year and Greater Manchester Police followed suit seven months ago in Little Hulton, Salford, when two officers began using them on the beat.

Local authorities were given greater powers to tackle anti social behaviour under the 2006 Clean Neighbourhoods Act and Salford is one of the first to take advantage of the legislation.

Coun Derek Antrobus said: "We have 20 parking attendants walking around the city and we decided that they might as well look at more than just cars. One of the biggest issues on people's minds is the disrespect that some are showing to our environment. The police have not got the resources when they are chasing criminals so this makes a lot of sense.

"We will be monitoring it very carefully and hopefully the residents of Salford will notice the difference."

NCP's James Pritchard said: "Salford council is very keen to do this and we told them that we were happy for our parking attendants to get involved but they would need a better way of getting evidence.

"The cameras will give a much better standard of evidence in case of disputes or assaults on the attendants.

"We are more than happy to work with the police and pass on any evidence we gather. It can only help them to have people out on the streets with a camera all the time.

"Our attendants do a very good job but they are not police officers and they have very specific powers. It makes the job more interesting."

From the Manchester Evening News.


[digitally literate students = teachers' worst nightmare]

PAUL SHUKOVSKY AND NINA AKHMETELI at Seattle PI report how a student is battling a 40 day suspension from school because he posted a youtube video of his teacher. Not only was the video made without the knowledge of the teacher but the content is extremely inflammatory. The video libelliously raises various questions about the teacher including her hygeine habits (or lack of) while casting aspersions on her professional merit. While people watching the video (parents, students, etc...) might feel the video is warranted - is this really the "due course" for such complaints? The student has gone to court to appeal his suspension citing the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech.

Hot on the heels of this youtube video kafafel the bbc reports that Keele University has threatened all students with disciplinary action if any of them post defamatory comments on the internet on sites like Facebook and MySpace. The University says: "Students may face legal action from the members of staff concerned for defamation and harassment."

While students are becoming more digitally literate - using digital cameras, creating and manipulating videos, uploading them, sharing them - teachers must remain extra vigilant (while not quite becoming paranoid!) in the classroom unless they want to become the lastest teacher "
forcibly retired" (as the youtube video claims is the case with Joyce Mong). Is this cyberbulling? The online harassment of teachers is causing some to consider leaving the profession because of the defamation and humiliation they are forced to suffer," the UK Education Secretary Alan Johnson says.

[google says "no" to essay mills]

Google Bans Essay Writing Adverts
By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education reporter

Google is to ban adverts for essay writing services - following claims that plagiarism is threatening the integrity of university degrees.
There have been complaints from universities about students being sold customised essays on the internet.

The advert ban from the Google search engine has been "warmly welcomed" by university authorities.

But it has angered essay writing firms which say this will unfairly punish legitimate businesses.

From next month, Google will no longer take adverts from companies which sell essays and dissertations - and the internet company has written to advertisers to tell them about the policy.

Plagiarism software

Google's forthcoming ban on adverts for "academic paper-writing services and the sale of pre-written essays, theses, and dissertations" means that essay websites join a blacklist of "unacceptable content" including adverts for weapons, prostitution, drugs, tobacco, fake documents and "miracle cures".

The move has been applauded by universities which have struggled with the problem of students dishonestly submitting material copied from the internet.
University lecture

"Making life harder for these cynical web 'essay mills' is a step in the right direction," says Professor Drummond Bone, president of Universities UK.

"We welcome this move. Essay writing sites claim that students pay hundreds of pounds for model answers - but do not then submit these as their own work. We all know this claim is absurd."

The universities organisation says that in particular there have been difficulties with essays bought by students from companies which sell tailor-made answers, where fees can be up to £5,000 for a single piece of extended work.

There have been reports of up to 12,000 essays being sold to students in a year, says Universities UK.

These essays and assignments can be written by freelance academics or other students - and it is less easy for plagiarism software used by universities to detect such work.

Google, commenting on the change, says its advertising policies are "developed and evaluated based on multiple factors, including legal and cultural considerations plus user and customer experience".

And a spokesperson said that the advert ban was expected to be applied across Google's global network.

Unfair ban?

But one of the UK companies fearing that it will be prevented from advertising, Essaywriter.co.uk, is angry at the threat to its business - with 80% of its customers coming through Google.

Managing director Matthew Wilson says this will punish the legitimate, transparent companies, which sell essays, but which warn students that they must not be used dishonestly.

Mr Wilson says that such a bespoke service, selling tailor-made essays at short notice, with prices around £70 and upwards, can be used as a guide for students wanting extra assistance.

Overseas students are frequently customers, he says - but the firm makes clear that essays should not be passed off as being written by the student.

And he says that such a blanket ban will not stop the search engine from generating links to rogue essay selling companies, which have been accused of scamming customers by providing poor quality material.

From BBC News


[no privacy online - online fingerprints are ba-ack]

New Software Can Identify You From Your Online Habits

IF YOU thought you could protect your privacy on the web by lying about your personal details, think again. In online communities at least, entering fake details such as a bogus name or age may no longer prevent others from working out exactly who you are.

That is the spectre raised by new research conducted by Microsoft. The computing giant is developing software that could accurately guess your name, age, gender and potentially even your location, by analysing telltale patterns in your web browsing history. But experts say the idea is a clear threat to privacy - and may be illegal in some places.

Previous studies show there are strong correlations between the sites that people visit and their personal characteristics, says software engineer Jian Hu from Microsoft's research lab in Beijing, China. For example, 74 per cent of women seek health and medical information online, while only 58 per cent of men do. And 34 per cent of women surf the internet for information about religion, whereas 25 per cent of men do the same.

While each offers only a fairly crude insight, analytical software could use a vast range of such profiles to perform a probabilistic analysis of a person's browsing history. From that it could make a good guess about their identity, Hu and his colleagues last week told the World Wide Web 2007 conference in Banff, Canada.

"It could make a good guess about your identity from your browsing history"
Hu's colleague Hua-Jun Zeng says the software could get its raw information from a number of sources, including a new type of "cookie" program that records the pages visited. Alternatively, it could use your PC's own cache of web pages, or proxy servers could maintain records of sites visited. So far it can only guess gender and age with any accuracy, but the team say they expect to be able to "refine the profiles which contain bogus demographic information", and one day predict your occupation, level of qualifications, and perhaps your location. "Because of its hierarchical structure - language, country, region, city - we may need to design algorithms to better discriminate between user locations," Zeng says.

However, Ross Anderson, a computer security engineer at the University of Cambridge, thinks the idea could land Microsoft in legal trouble. "I'd consider it somewhat pernicious if Microsoft were to deploy such software widely," he told New Scientist. "They are arguably committing offences in a number of countries under a number of different laws if they make available software that defeats the security procedures internet users deploy to protect their privacy - from export control laws to anti-hacking laws."

From issue 2604 of New Scientist magazine, 16 May 2007, page 32


[the reading revolution]

On Tuesday the 3rd of July I'll be speaking along with Cally Poplak, Director of Egmont Press, Paul Duffield, Manga Artist, Sue Horner, Head of Standards and Assessment Policy, QCA, and Joshua Beasley (he will offer the views of a "young person"). We'll be discussing what reading means today, in the 21st century. Of course I'm going to talk about reading online and the need for critical literacy as well as multi-modal sensibilities.

I don't know about the others, but since I'm on the panel I know it won't be a repeat of the recent very one-sided Digitise or Die session held the South Bank Center in London.

[on-demand learning]

Courtesy of Angela's post, insights on Second Life and learning from Corey Ondrejaka:


[literacy and technology]

I've just been reading Ruth's post about the transliteracy colloquium we held last Tuesday and she asks some pertinent questions about multimodality: "Do we process it differently from other texts? What difference does that make in the classroom?" I attempted an answer on her blog but I can't stop thinking about these questions.

I've been thinking about learning styles and key characteristics of strong/successful readers - i.e. critically literate readers, readers who "ask" questions in response to the text (and by text I'm sure that would include visual, aural, cinematic, etc... works).

Pearson, Roehler, Dole, and Duffy (2002) developed a comprehension model citing six strategies that successful readers employ:

I wonder how these strategies might be applied to online reading? How might these strategies help students navigate text, links, images, video, sound, and interaction in an online environment?

[transliteracy plenary - some thoughts]

xposted at PaRT
translit plenary

Everyone had the opportunity to discuss the qualities of transliteracy during the small group session and some groups enjoyed added high-tech accoutrements like coloured felt-tips and flip charts.

Transliteracy Colloquium Neil began our sharing session by passing on Andy's suggestion that we think about what makes transliteracy distinctive. Group four seemed to agree that the defining difference of transliteracy is the movement between senses. (Yay! I personally agree with this idea especially in the context of web fictions where readers (critical readers, literate readers) must be able to interpret (not just navigate) various modes which appear or are present in the same space/time.)

Claire Hudson, reporting for group seven, saw transliteracy more about awareness of sensitivity to different kinds of human interaction rather than terming it as an "ability."
Transliteracy ColloquiumClaire then noted that often literacy is vs fluency and found Andrew's comments (made in his presentation on music and transliteracy) were pertinent: one needn't be literate in order to be fluent. Group seven tackled the idea that collective behaviour can be exclusive. Claire finished her feedback with a question: "will the next generation all be transliterate?"

Tag clouds can be understood as new ways of reading announced Ruth for group five. Tag clouds are excellent examples of tying together verbal and visual literacies. Accompanying group five's (numerous!) thoughts were a variety of graphs.
Transliteracy Colloquium While I cannot do justice to all of them I will share with you some of the main ideas. In terms of collaboration there are benefits such as user "curated" content which allows the building of a montage of pre-existing material thus satisfying different styles of learning (this would definitely have some practical applications in the class/lecture room). As Toby explained, moving "across" existing lit. by montage/mashing up etc… creates a "new" kind of literature (or work etc…) Transliteracy Colloquiumthat moves us (as readers, learners, participants) to a new or more embodied literature. In terms of learning styles, transliteracy might also call attention to a selective reading or selective attention. Rather than demanding a left-to-right complete absorption of a "text," transliterate readers can skim and scan in a non-linear way. So transliteracy is a different kind of literacy that relates to multiples and plurality of attention.

Transliteracy Colloquium

David related group two's finding by noting that an awareness of cultural and historical context might be a quality of transliteracy but what would those to terms actually mean to a 14 year old – would her awareness be only of her specific history and context? (However, I think we could probably agree that all history and context is situated). David also explained that "awareness" of new tools is too pragmatic for a concept as fluid as transliteracy.
Transliteracy Colloquium However, multimodal sensibility, David argued, should include ethics and critical literacy. Again, I must agree! Of course. All reading is interpreting and the more fluent a reader you are, the more critically literate you probably are. Thus, teaching people to read transliterally also means teaching readers to ask why certain modes have been employed, what kinds of contexts are invoked, and who is empowered? Mark looking pensive Mark echoed group five's thinking that transliteracy is about different levels of attention and so should encourage and develop multiple kinds and ways of attending to skills like searching and engaging and the shifting balances between reading video online and e-mail communication etc… Ruth came to the conclusion that transliteracy is transmodality rather than just multimodality which are just modes existing at the same time. ruth scribbling

Guiding the general discussion back to the term transliteracy, Dave E., who is a visual artist, suggested that transliteracy should be renamed so as to avoid being "imprisoned in letters." In terms of acknowledging context and history he reminded us that identity is not monolithic and asked how might context-specific identities fit with transliteracy? (I suspect feminist theory would give us some ideas here).

Transliteracy Colloquium


[walking in queen elizabeth park]

purple foxglovesToday we enjoyed a vigorous 3 hour walk through Hampshire's biggest country park. Although we didn't actually walk the whole 20 miles of trails, at times it did feel like it (there were lots of inclines!).


[UK launch of the Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1]

Lastnight was the UK launch of the ELC, the cd and online collection of web works put together by the Electronic Literature Organization.

Guests included
- Scott Rettberg (
http://retts.net/, writer, co-editor of ELC Volume 1, co-founder and first executive director of the Electronic Literature Organization)

And the UK-based writers who feature on the ELC Volume 1, who will show their work and discuss what Electronic Literature means for them:
- John Cayley (
- Jon Ingold (http://www.ingold.fsnet.co.uk/)
- Chris Joseph (http://www.chrisjoseph.org/)
- Kate Pullinger (http://www.katepullinger.com)

and me, in the place of
Dr. Donna Leishman. Sadly I could not do a Scottish accent (I struggle with my own!) but as I spoke about The Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw (Sept 2004), Chris interacted/played with the story so audience members were able to enjoy exactly what Donna terms "the fragital":

"an uncommon pairing of the digital experience, involving the individualised remote onscreen touch, and the sense of a material and sensitive tangibility which is located in the drawing, movement, composition and the responsive actions of the visual practice."


[user-created content a *must* for gaming]

At the transliteracy colloquium on Tuesday we talked about the role of co-operation and collaboration in transliteracy and Sue brought up Surowiecki's "wisdom of crowds." Today I read Doug Lombardi, marketing director at Valve Software, argue that home consoles must embrace user-created content if “they want online to matter.”

"Half-Life 1 was okay as a multiplayer game and Team Fortress Classic was really good, but Counter-Strike kicked both their asses no question. And that came from a kid going to college in Canada and another kid going to high school in New Jersey, who had our code and thought it would be cool to play our game.”

"The PC has that great advantage; has had that great advantage, and it comes from multiplayer and modding starting in the early '90s and [online] multiplayer only showing up on consoles in 2000 or 2001.”

“You've got a good 10-to-15-year lead there and you still have broken pathways on both consoles, so the PC has the advantage of time and a clear pathway," he added. "You've got a freeway set up on the PC and you've got this dirt road with roadblocks all over it on console in terms of getting user-made content out there."

As it stands, home consoles are only just starting to become acquainted with user-based content, as seen in the Playstation 3’s LittleBigPlanet from Media Molecule, which is distributed player to player.

However, Valves upcoming project, like many efforts that stemmed from PC titles, will likely be a commercial effort, requiring certification.

"I would love to see that happen, but I think the platform holders are always going to need certification, which means it's usually going to have to be a commercial thing," admitted Lombardi.

Story from
Gameworld Network


[transliteracy colloqiuim - summing up session]

xposted at PaRT and the IoCT Blog

Translit Colloquium 001While everyone has an hour to work in their groups, refining the definition and characteristics of transliteracy, I'll add a bit about our summing up session. After lunch everyone had a chance to share ideas and ask questions to the panel about presentations or about the idea of transliteracy in general.


[transliteracy colloquium]

Tomorrow is the big day! We'll be sharing our blossoming thoughts on transliteracy with a wide variety of delegates (including Microsoft, the Cartoon Network, Pixel Lab, researchers, practitioners, etc...). I'm looking forward to hearing what transliteracy might mean to an artist or perhaps to an engineer - will be a great learning opportunity.

Jakob Nielsen, Nielsen NormanOn the topic of web 2.0 I see the BBC seems to agree with Jakob Nielsen that web 2.0 isn't about *good design*. Hrm...sounds a bit like *authors* who say a narrative isn't a narrative anymore when there is the addition of sound, image, video, etc...apparently words need to be sufficient to create the scene for readers, if words don't do the job, then that's not a good narrative (I have had *real life* authors tell me this btw)...but who says multiple modes actually do the same job as words? Aren't all representational devices different and each has a specific affordance? It all seems a bit to foreboding and reminiscent of the Digitise or Die panel...especially when Nielsen says: "Although people in their late 30s make very different use of the web to those in their teens, Mr Nielsen expects that when those teenagers grow up the time they spend online will diminish." My online use as only increased with age (although not 30...yet!)

[apparently, i blog like a man]

Ok, so I've read studies that suggest women use more passive verbs than men and, in conversation (f2f and electronic) women are more likely to employ superlatives as well as apologise (i know, crazy eh?!)

Well, now you can check whether you're more "man" or "woman" blogger.

Enter a portion of your blog post over at the gender genie on the book blog and be suprised or at least entertained. According to scientific algorithms I blog like a man...so what's that mean, I'm a proactive, energetic, active blogger and I like to make decisions...must be!

Everything is perception...

[boo! it's google]

san fran chronicle logo

Firms in Silicon Valley and beyond fear search giant's plans for growth

For a company that pledged to not be evil, Google makes a lot of enemies.

From Madison Avenue to Hollywood, some of industry's most powerful entities are marshaling their forces to combat a company that has risen to the top of the business world in less than a decade.

Fear is the motivating factor. And with every passing quarter, there is more to be worried about if you count Google as a competitor.

Since going public in 2004, the Internet giant's market value has grown to dwarf Disney and McDonald's combined. Earlier this year, it became the most visited Web property in the world and was named the world's most valuable brand. And its runaway success in search and advertising has big corporations like AT&T and Microsoft crying monopoly without a trace of irony.

In perhaps the greatest testament to Google's power, media reports surfaced late last week that its archrival Yahoo was considering teaming up with Microsoft in an effort to compete.

"Essentially, the new Microsoft is Google," said Jeff Clavier, a prominent Silicon Valley investor in startups.

In an interview with reporters Thursday, Larry Page, Google's co-founder, addressed the perception, saying, "I think, as we get bigger and more successful -- and things have gone very well for us -- it's natural for people to think this." But he denied that Google is anything to fear, adding that his firm has learned from previous examples of companies behaving badly.

Since its founding nine years ago by Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Google has grown into one of world's the most formidable companies. Few others compare in terms of profits, profile and ambitions.

But, as a result of its success, Google has attracted some powerful detractors. Silicon Valley executives fret that Google's success will decimate startups and drive up salaries. Madison Avenue is concerned about the company selling all kinds of advertising, including offline pitches in newspapers and on radio and television. Privacy advocates fret over the vast amounts of information Google collects about its users. And Hollywood is upset about widespread piracy on Google's video service, YouTube. Some entertainment companies are even bringing legal action.

Google says it is innocent on all counts. In fact, the company claims to be a boon to the aggrieved by helping their businesses prosper. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have Wall Street on your side. The company's stock remains lofty, closing Thursday at an astonishing $461 per share.

In Silicon Valley, though, some people aren't as bullish on Google.

King of the valley

In the valley's cutthroat culture, Google is the equivalent of king. And as in many monarchies, the subjects are both submissive and restive.

Rich Skrenta, chief executive of Topix, a local news and community forums Web site in Palo Alto, described Google as being so ahead of everyone else that there is no real No. 2. Startup executives cower at mounting a challenge, he said.

"It's past fear -- it's the stages of grief, it's resignation -- and now everyone's depressed," Skrenta said.

Trying to build another Google-like search engine, he said, is futile. The only hope is to build a company outside of Google's crosshairs, in a niche category that has no clear winner yet.

"Grow a spine, people!" Skrenta implored Silicon Valley on his blog recently, hoping to rally the troops. "Get a stick and try to knock G's crown off."

Even the big guys are squirming, epitomized by last week's revelation that Yahoo and Microsoft had recently talked about merging or partnering to close the gap with mutual rival Google. Discussions about an acquisition are no longer active, according to the reports, although the door is still open for the companies to cooperate in some way.

Of course, those challengers, whatever their size, will have to hire the best and brightest to succeed. That can be costly, however, given Google's deep pockets and penchant for bidding wars.

James Currier, a former venture capitalist and serial entrepreneur who sold the social networking site Tickle to job site Monster.com, said that a company on whose board he serves recently lost a prospective employee to Google. The worker, whom he described as a genius, turned down an offer of $120,000, plus stock options, in favor of a $375,000 salary from Google.

"Google is sucking the oxygen out of the system," said Currier, who has a new startup in San Francisco, Ooga Labs.

But then he voiced the mixed feelings that many executives have about Google: "You can't blame them, though. If I were them, I'd be doing the same thing."

Indeed, Google has a complex relationship with Silicon Valley. Many, such as Currier, admire the company even as they tick off a few grievances.

Rather than operating independently, Google's business is intertwined with thousands of others. Many Web sites depend on the ads Google farms out to them for revenue.

Without the money, many startups would be unable to exist. To a point, Google gets credit for fueling the current Internet boom.

"It's a wonderful thing for consumers," Currier said.

View from Madison Avenue

But Google leadership in online advertising also spooks advertisers. No executive wants to be too dependent on a single company to funnel them customers.

Google will take in 32.1 percent of all U.S. online ad revenues in 2007, according to eMarketer. In search advertising, the company's share will be a more daunting 75.6 percent.

Increasingly, Google is trying to bolster its ad business by expanding to other kinds of marketing, such as online banners, as well as to newspapers, radio and television.

Take Google's agreement last month to pay $3.1 billion for DoubleClick, a company that helps advertisers place their banners across the Web. The acquisition would add significantly to Google's brawn by making it a power player in a new line of business.

Several companies, public advocacy groups and, on Tuesday, the New York State Consumer Protection Board urged the Federal Trade Commission to take a careful look at the merger for fear that it would create an Internet colossus. None other than Microsoft and AT&T, which have had their own antitrust issues, asked that regulators take a close look.

Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive, responded to complaints at a recent conference, saying "Give me a break" and calling Google's share of the $1 trillion global advertising industry minuscule.

"This is an emergent business with lots of different choices," Schmidt said. "End users have choices, advertisers have choices."

Google's plan to take on all kinds of advertising has Madison Avenue worried. Agencies see Google as potential competition in helping clients create and place advertising.

The only solace is that, so far, Google's offline initiatives have had limited success. But the efforts are nascent, and the company is putting a lot of ammunition behind them.

"It's like the telephone company owning the wires and the towers," Daniel Stein, chief executive of EVB, an ad agency in San Francisco, said of Google's advertising muscle. "But I don't think Google is going to flex that power."

A new villain in Hollywood

Copyright is another area that has generated major headaches for Google. To listen to Hollywood talk, the company has as much respect for the law as Jack the Ripper, given the profusion of pirated video clips on YouTube.

Hoping to crack down on illegally posted video, Viacom sued Google last month for $1 billion for alleged copyright infringement. Google denies any responsibility for the clips, which are posted by users, and said that it takes them down when asked.

"Old media companies are wrestling with YouTube," said Andrew Heyward, former president of CBS News. "The exposure can be very important.

"On the other hand, this is copyrighted content that is expensive to create. Someone has to pay for news; it's not free."

In the meantime, NBC Universal and News Corp. gave Google a big poke in the eye last month by agreeing to create a YouTube rival. The project, to premiere by summer, will make legal, full-length clips available on Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft and MySpace.

Video isn't the only copyright battle Google is trying to fend off. A separate attack by the publishing industry is aimed at Google's copying of millions of library books to make the contents searchable online.

Google building Big Brother?

Fear of Google also extends to its amassing of vast amounts of information about user behavior. Privacy advocates have called the repository of search query histories and e-mail the ultimate Big Brother that law enforcement and civil litigators could use to glean juicy personal information.

Kurt Opsahl, a senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group in San Francisco, gave the example of a Google user who has HIV but has not told anyone. Anyone who poked around in the user's search record could be tipped off about the secret if the user searched frequently for information about AIDS.

"People can get sensitive about that kind of information being known. But if Google didn't keep that information, people wouldn't be able to get to it," Opsahl said.

In response to the complaints, Google vowed recently that it would make it harder to link users to what they search for online. Under the plan, the company would shroud the information it collects about users in anonymity after keeping it for 18 to 24 months. Opsahl said the idea doesn't go far enough.

Google is by far the most popular search engine among consumers, with 53.7 percent of the U.S. search market in March, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. Yahoo was a distant second at 21.8 percent.

That dominance puts Google in a key position to control information. Links that appear at the first results page become, in effect, a definitive source, whatever the topic.

For businesses, placement in the search engine can mean life or death because customers inevitably spend their money with those that are high on the list. Companies that fall into disfavor on Google amid the frequent changes to its search algorithm are often incensed, and some have gone so far as to sue, albeit unsuccessfully.

Nowhere is Google's control of information more controversial than in China, where it built a search engine that censors results deemed dangerous by the Chinese government.

Human rights groups and members of Congress have attacked Google over the matter, comparing the company to a Nazi collaborator. Google responded that it censors reluctantly under the theory that providing some information to China's residents is better than none at all.

Not quite an 'evil empire'

Despite Google's power, few say the company strikes as much fear in them as Microsoft did during the 1990s, when its near-monopoly on computer operating systems earned it the nickname "evil empire." Google's spotty track record with new products -- few outside of search have much of a following -- and intense competition with other Internet companies keeps it a step below.

"With Google, there is still choice," said Chris Le Tocq, an analyst for Guernsey Research, "so I'm not sure if the 'evil empire' epithet can be equally applied."

But he cautioned that the warning sign will come when Google becomes so dominant that customers cannot do without it. How well will Google deal with its customers' problems then?

In any case, Ellen Siminoff, chief executive of Efficient Frontier, a Mountain View search engine advertising company, said that power shifts quickly in the technology industry, judging from recent history.

"There was a time when Netscape could do no wrong and a time when AOL could do no wrong, and then Yahoo could do no wrong," she said. "Now Google can do no wrong, but that can change."

Wary of Internet giant
Google's long tentacles have many running scared:

Silicon Valley: Concerned that Google's outsize ambition is squashing startups and raising salaries in the tech industry.

Madison Avenue: Fears that Google is taking over the advertising business and making established ad agencies irrelevant.

Hollywood: Takes umbrage at widespread piracy on Google's YouTube video service, claiming it violates copyright law.

Privacy advocates: Worry that Google's collection of personal information will create a massive database that can be mined by government.

Source: Chronicle research

Google by the numbers
In less than a decade, Google has become a corporate colossus. Here are some examples of its muscle:


Number of employees.

$10.6 billion

Revenue in 2006.

$3.1 billion

Profit in 2006.

53.7 percent

Share of the U.S. search market.

528 million

Global unique users in March.

$143.5 billion

Market capitalization.


Share price.

Source: Google, Chronicle research

E-mail Verne Kopytoff at vkopytoff@sfchronicle.com.

This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle