Google seems to want a slice of everybody else’s pie this week. Some of the search engine giant’s latest moves are strikingly similar to what competitors are doing: Amazon in eCommerce and Facebook in subscription news. Plus, the company is testing a new feature that users will love and video advertisers will hate. Overseas, a new lite search brings the power of the internet to developing nations, and a small snafu in Japan knocked half the country offline last Friday.
OK Google, Challenge Amazon
Not content to let Amazon wear the eCommerce crown, Google has teamed up with Walmart to introduce voice shopping through the Google Assistant, similar to what Amazon customers can do with Alexa on the company’s Echo devices. The big-box retailer has a long way to go if it wants to catch up to Amazon, which controls almost three-quarters of the U.S. voice-activated device industry, but Amazon has certainly taken note of the competition: Walmart’s move to offer free two-day shipping on orders over $35 drove Amazon to drop its free shipping threshold. It will be interesting to see how the eCommerce giant responds when Google Assistant shopping rolls out in late September.
In an effort to drive subscriptions to struggling news publishers, Google is following in Facebook’s recent footsteps to try to monetize some of that content through a subscription model. The goal is not to generate any new revenue for the search engine giant (Google does not plan to take a cut of the subscription fees, not now and maybe not ever), but to help content providers drive subscriptions and traffic to stay afloat. This does ultimately benefit Google in a more roundabout way: more subscriptions and traffic to content providers means more potential ad views on Google’s own search pages and on partner websites. Part of the rollout will be a revamp of Google’s old “first click free” feature.
Watch Out, Video Advertisers
You know that awkward moment when you’re at work and suddenly one of your background web tabs starts playing a video ad at full volume? That experience could go away forever with the next iteration of Google Chrome, which could allow users to mute offending websites. Google is testing out the feature in its experimental browser, Chrome Canary – which is still in the works and therefore relatively unstable, but it is available for download by the public if you just can’t wait to silence those ads. What this will mean for ad revenue – and what new tactics advertisers will devise to get around it – will not become evident until later.
Google’s new lite Search app could help users in Indonesia and other developing or less-connected countries leverage the power of the internet even with the barest of data connections. News, weather, translation services and popular sites are all just a tap away on the skinny service, which is less of a simple search engine and more of a launch pad for web content. While the app has the potential to help Android users save data (like Google’s previous app Triangle), it is unclear whether the company will release the lite Search app worldwide or only to developing countries that lack access to its full suite.
The Virtual Butterfly Effect
Google sent a number of falsely announced peer prefixes to Verizon last Friday, accidentally routing traffic through networks that offered no transit provider services. The botched border gateway protocol (BGP) – a simple configuration error – crashed half the internet in Japan, disrupting workflows for railways, banks and video gamers using internet-enabled consoles like the Nintendo Switch and Wii U. fortunately, no major disasters resulted in healthcare, security or other critical sectors. Google revised the error within eight minutes, although resolving the massive fallout took several hours longer.