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August 16th Roundup
Kevin Davis

Are Mobile Phone Apps Becoming a Proxy-War for Competing Search Providers?

Big news out of Google as they shut down the unofficial YouTube app for Windows Phone. This latest salvo against Microsoft comes mere weeks after Facebook pulled the unofficial Instagram app for Windows Phone, deleting every user's Windows Phone uploaded photos in the process. Both of these events come less than a month after the announcement of the Lumia 1020, Nokia and Microsoft's attempt to position Windows Phone as the goto for users looking for high-quality camera performance from their phone, which incidentally can no longer use the dominant sharing platforms for images and videos... My original assumption had been that Facebook was jockeying for some sort of leverage in the ongoing integration of Facebook into Bing search, but combined with this Google announcement, it seems something more is afoot. Could it be that Facebook and Google are colluding to make Windows Phone a flop? And if so, does this indicate that Facebook sees itself as a longterm competitor with Bing in the search space the way it does with Google, or does this relate to Facebook's pseudo-entrance into the phone-space with their recent HTC "Facebook" phone?

Fear and Loathing in Link Land

Barry Schwartz over at Search Engine Roundtable echoes a recent forum discussion on Webmaster World with an interesting article on the fear of linking that Google has started to engender, and how it is killing "natural" links as webmasters start to ask themselves, "is it worth the risk to NOT nofollow this?" I think this may provide an insight into Google's recent decision to open up manual penalty decisions to the webmasters they effect. Google is starting to see the chilling effects from their over-the-top hyperbole about links and link penalties and its hurting their ability to index natural links in a way that their previous hyperventilating over thin content and duplicate product pages did not. Hopefully Google will wise-up and not only realize that links are the goose that lays the golden egg, but that their attempts to terrorize webmasters leads to more of the "unnatural" behavior that Google is ostensibly trying to prevent. Watch this space... I predict a future Google employee video where they explain that they're now following "some" nofollow links because 90% of unpaid links have become nofollow.

Google Tries to Stem Post-PRISM Cloud Backlash With Fig Leaf

If you don't want to risk some corrupt NSA middle manager selling your corporate secrets to the highest bidder, cloud storage in the US probably isn't your best option these days. The US cloud computing industry is expected to hemorrhage $35 billion as a result of the NSA's PRISM program, and Google is no exception. To try to reassure corporate users of their Google Cloud Storage solution, Google will now be applying server-side AES encryption to all uploaded data. This move appears to be based on the assumption that Google Cloud Storage customers like Best Buy and Rovio aren't sophisticated enough to realize how useless this is. First of all, this is server-side encryption, which serves no conceivable purpose other than the extreme edge-case that a hacker somehow gains access to the data blob in storage, but not access to the keys necessary to decrypt that blob on access. Also, both Amazon and Dropbox already offer server-side AES (of exponentially higher strength) for those in the market for a fig leaf. PRISM works by listening on the line (and probably with the provider's private key to nullify any SSL encryption that isn't implementing perfect forward secrecy) so if you encrypt the data AFTER it's transferred on the tapped line, you might as well have never encrypted it at all. This announcement is nothing short of insulting. Seeing that Kim Dotcom was able to develop a real(ish) pre-internet encryption scheme for MEGA, it is incredibly frustrating to see Google's engineers checking a box to put in a misleading sales slide, rather than developing a real, pre-internet encryption solution.

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