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An update on our Admeld acquisition

Last month we announced our plans to acquire Admeld, in order to make display advertising simpler, more efficient and more valuable for publishers. Companies have publicly said that this acquisition “is great news for the industry and is proof that our space will continue to have aggressive, compound growth for the next several years” (Cadreon) and that it “will accelerate innovation and lead to great new advertising options for both publishers and advertisers” (Photobucket). Some more industry reaction is here.

We’ve been discussing this deal with the Department of Justice, who are obliged to review the transaction because of its purchase price. As they do for many acquisitions, they have sent us a “second request”, which means that they are asking for more information in order to complete their review of this particular acquisition. This doesn’t surprise us, as today’s display advertising industry is very new and highly complex. But we’ll work to enable this review to be concluded as quickly as possible - display advertising is highly competitive and fast moving, and we don’t want our efforts to bring better services to our clients to be delayed.

Here’s why we think the display advertising business is, and will remain, extremely competitive:
  • Buyers and sellers of display ads and ad space have an incredible and ever-growing range of options for transacting display ads—direct sales, networks, exchanges, demand and supply platforms, yield managers, private exchanges and more.
  • In fact, since we announced this acquisition about a month ago, at least three new and expanded platforms for buyers and publishers have been launched. Others continue to grow.
  • Analysts have noted that switching suppliers is relatively easy and that this isn’t a “sticky” business.
  • Even another supplier of publisher solutions is reported as acknowledging the reality that Google “continues to face competitive pressure from the more than a thousand companies angling for a piece of marketers' budgets".
While the Department of Justice works to finish their review, it’s business as usual for our clients, and we’ll continue to actively work to improve our solutions for our partners in the display advertising space.

Celebrating the creativity of YouTube’s Partners

(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog and the YouTube Blog)

College friends make trick basketball shots into a career. A small blender company gets international attention by blending glow sticks and iPads. A musician goes from bagging groceries to beatboxing around the world. One of the most inspiring things about YouTube is the way people across the U.S. and around the world use it as a way to express their passions—and to turn those passions into careers.

There are 20,000 people in the YouTube Partner Program, and numerous other companies and organizations use YouTube to draw attention to their causes and promote their businesses. Hundreds of people are making six-figure incomes on the site, enabling them to hire editors and producers and create even more original content. We’re helping our Partners grow their careers by running programs like YouTube NextUp and Creator Institute, and working to make the site a better and better place for people to grow businesses and build audiences.

To shine a light on the many inspiring things happening on YouTube, we’ve put together a report sharing the stories of 20 YouTube Partners who are changing lives, businesses and in some cases, history. You can download a PDF version of “YouTube: Celebrating the next generation of creative video” or visit it online at youtube.com/awesomeytpartners. YouTube is a very special place because of the passion of our Partners and the positivity they bring, and we hope you’ll find these stories as uplifting as we do.

Yoani's iPhone and Jesus' vision

Someone sent me a link to Can the Internet Bring Change to Cuba?, an article published in the New York Review of Books by Daniel Wilkinson.

Wilkinson posits that since the dissident blogs are seldom read in Cuba, their major impact is on the Cuban exile community, whose leaders have largely shaped US policy. He also credits them for being moderate -- not calling for the overthrow of the government, criticizing the US embargo, etc. Instead, he says, they tell stories of life in Cuba.

Wilkinson quotes several such stories told by bloggers, and the one that caught my eye and heart was posted by Yoani Sánchez, who, after seeing an iPhone surf the Web for the first time, wrote:
Between the walls of this house, that had heard dozens of Cubans talk of the Internet as if it were a mythical and difficult to reach place, this little technological gadget gave us a piece of cyberspace. We, who throughout the Blogger Academy, work on a local server that simulates the web, were suddenly able to feel the kilobytes run across the palms of our hands. I had the desperate desire to grab Rosa Díez’s iPhone and run off with it to hide in my room and surf all the sites blocked on the national networks. For a second, I wanted to keep it so I could enter my own blog, which is still censored in the hotels and cybercafés. But I returned it, a bit disconsolate I confess.
This quote immediately reminded me of the 1996 message Jesus Martinez sent to his colleagues in the then small global Internet community announcing Cuba's connection to the Net. Jesus felt the same power as Yoani, writing:
After so many days, years of sacrifice and vigilance, I have great satisfaction to announce that our beloved Cuba, our "caiman of the Indies," has been connected to the Internet as we had desired...A new era has just begun for us. We will soon announce our Web site and value-added services to do as much as we can to help develop our region and our culture.
I hope Yoani gets a 4G iPhone and Jesus' vision is realized soon.

PS Yoani wrote that her blog was blocked in Cuba, but some time later, Reuters announced that it had been un-blocked -- does anyone have a sense of how widely the blogs of Yoani and other dissidents are read and known in Cuba?

Using data to protect people from malware

(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog)

The Internet brings remarkable benefits to society. Unfortunately, some people use it for harm and their own gain at the expense of others. We believe in the power of the web and information, and we work every day to detect potential abuse of our services and ward off attacks.

As we work to protect our users and their information, we sometimes discover unusual patterns of activity. Recently, we found some unusual search traffic while performing routine maintenance on one of our data centers. After collaborating with security engineers at several companies that were sending this modified traffic, we determined that the computers exhibiting this behavior were infected with a particular strain of malicious software, or “malware.” As a result of this discovery, today some people will see a prominent notification at the top of their Google web search results:

This particular malware causes infected computers to send traffic to Google through a small number of intermediary servers called “proxies.” We hope that by taking steps to notify users whose traffic is coming through these proxies, we can help them update their antivirus software and remove the infections.

We hope to use the knowledge we’ve gathered to assist as many people as possible. In case our notice doesn’t reach everyone directly, you can run a system scan on your computer yourself by following the steps in our Help Center article.

Updated July 20, 2011: We've seen a few common questions we thought we'd address here:

  • The malware appears to have gotten onto users' computers from one of roughly a hundred variants of fake antivirus, or "fake AV" software that has been in circulation for a while. We aren't aware of a common name for the malware.
  • We believe a couple million machines are affected by this malware.
  • We've heard from a number of you that you're thinking about the potential for an attacker to copy our notice and attempt to point users to a dangerous site instead. It's a good security practice to be cautious about the links you click, so the spirit of those comments is spot-on. We thought about this, too, which is why the notice appears only at the top of our search results page. Falsifying the message on this page would require prior compromise of that computer, so the notice is not a risk to additional users.
  • In the meantime, we've been able to successfully warn hundreds of thousands of users that their computer is infected. These are people who otherwise may never have known.

Measurement Lab introduces a new, hardware-based tool

Over the past two and a half years, more than 40 million consumers have accessed Measurement Lab tools to better understand their broadband performance. Nearly 400 terabytes of broadband performance data are now publicly available. Now, researchers have developed a new tool that will help take M-Lab measurement to the next level.

BISMark (the Broadband Internet Service BenchMARK), a project being led by Georgia Tech and the University of Napoli, aims to measure Internet performance continuously over time. Unlike the many existing tools that run from a user’s computer, BISMark runs on a user’s home router itself. As a result, BISMark can not only measure Internet performance continuously over time, but also help differentiate any performance problems caused by a user’s ISP from those caused by a user’s home network setup.

If you’re interested in better understanding your broadband performance, you can sign up today to receive a free BISMark measurement router. Working with SamKnows and the FCC, the BISMark team will be selecting participants in the coming weeks, and routers will be shipped shortly thereafter. (If you’re especially eager and tech-savvy, you can skip the sign-up and try out an early version of the BISMark package on any OpenWRT-capable device; the project page has information about planned upcoming releases.)

Once you connect your BISMark router to your modem, the tool will run tests throughout the day, including measurement latency, packet loss, jitter, throughput, and network capacity. The BISMark team is also developing a network dashboard, which will allow users to access a detailed view of their ISP’s historical performance.

Like all M-Lab tools, BISMark is fully open-source, and all data collected on M-Lab servers will be placed in the public domain.

ICT statistics for 2010 -- more Internet users but fewer Internet computers and domain names

The Cuban National Statistics Office has issued their 2011 Annual Statistical Report, which includes data on information and communication technology.

The table shown here (click it to enlarge) presents physical ICT indicators. As you see, there are now over a million mobile phone subscribers. Note that Cuban subscribers do not have "smart" phones used for mobile Internet access -- their phones are limited to calls, text messages, taking pictures, etc.

The number of (often restricted) Internet users increased a little between 2009 and 2010. We always expect Internet growth, but it is surprising that the number of computers on the Net and the number of .cu domain names actually decreased slightly.

Click here to download a spreadsheet with the table.

Reuters summarized the statistics along with a cool photo here.

Committee to Protect Journalists report on Cuba

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has just released a special report called After the Black Spring, Cuba's New Repression by Karen Phillips. The title refers to the recent release of the last of 29 journalists who were jailed in 2003.

The CPJ examined government activities in March and April 2011, two months with sensitive political milestones, and found that critical journalists were targeted in more than 50 instances of repression -- arbitrary arrests, short-term detentions, beatings, smear campaigns, surveillance, and social sanctions. The government strategy seems to have shifted from long jail sentences to frequent, low-profile harassment.

Much of the focus is on bloggers and Twitter users. According to the CPJ, there are about 40 critical bloggers and "the struggle for free expression is being waged almost exclusively in digital media." They go on to state that "the government proudly announced in February that it had enlisted roughly 1,000 bloggers to denounce critical journalists," but did not offer a reference to that announcement.

They predict that the ALBA undersea cable will disadvantage the critical bloggers who have to scramble for Internet access illegally, visibly at embassies and Internet cafes or at expensive hotels. Journalists outside of Havana, with few hotels and no embassies, are at an even greater disadvantage. The cable will improve the already free access enjoyed by the official government bloggers.

The report concludes with lists of specific recommendations for the Cuban government, international community, U.N. Human Rights Council, European Union, Organization of American States, technology and blogging community and U.S. government.

The CPJ states that they have reports of 50 sanctions during a two month period and presents a number of annecdotes to support the claim. It would be interesting to conduct a survey of the independent Cuban bloggers to ascertain the frequency and types of harassment they have experienced.

Finally, this report may seem one-sided to some who feel that Cuba has no choice but to engage in such practices because of US attempts to influence Cuban public opinion, so called "cyberwar." There is no doubt that many reports and committees on Cuba are blindly one-sided, seeing the situation in stark black/white terms. But, this report is lent credibility by the fact that the CPJ is not a Cuban interest group -- they are interested in protecting journalists globally. They are an equal opportunity critic of repression wherever they encounter it.

Explore America’s diplomatic efforts around the world

Throughout the past year American embassies, consulates, and ambassadors around the world have uploaded hundreds of videos to YouTube across a wide array of topics. Some are informative, like U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos updating American citizens following the devastating tsunami; some are inspirational, like First Lady Michelle Obama’s message to a school in Santiago; and others are instructional, like this video on what to expect at a visa interview at the US Consulate in Juarez, Mexico.

In an effort to continue offering easy access to this information, we’ve launched the YouTube State Hub, a place to find all of the U.S. Department of State’s various YouTube channels in one place.

This site follows the model of two similar YouTube channels, the House Hub and Senate Hub, which also help users easily find videos posted by government officials. Just click on the pin in each country, and you can find content from that embassy.

Throughout the coming year we’ll showcase some of the most creative videos from embassies, consulates and ambassadors around the globe on our CitizenTube blog and via our twitter account, @CitizenTube.

Twitter user meetups in Havana and Holguín -- non events?

A few weeks ago, Leunam Rodriguez put out a call for a meetup of Cuban Twitter users. As shown here, the word was spread using Twitter, and there were over 2,000 tweets on the day of the meetup. If you are interested in more detail, search for #twitthab on Twitter.

In spite of the publicity, Reuters reported that only about 50 people attended the meeting in Havana.

The fact that, according to Reuters, Rodriguez is a reporter at the state-run Radio Cubana, suggests a pro-government slant, but calls for widespread Internet access reportedly met with unanimous applause. The sparse attendance might also have been explained by the high cost of posting a tweet -- perhaps there are not many Twitter users in Havana.

Dissident blogger Yoani Sánchez evidently arrived early and saw computers, but no people, and she later tweeted that what she found at the pavilion felt more like a prison than the free environment of Twitter. I guess she wasn't impressed :-).

As shown here, there was a similar meeting in Holguín, and you can see photos of the Havana meetup here.

Were you at either meetup? Were these non-events?