The United States Department of Justice is filing a sweeping antitrust lawsuit against Google today. The suit comes after years of investigations and accusations that Google and it’s parent company Alphabet have unfairly stifled competition to maintain its leading place in online search. 

The complaints further allege that Google then used this leverage and dominant position to sell more search ads across its platform. 

The suit will be joined by 11 state attorneys general from Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, and Texas. 

Some have pointed out that all involved attorneys generals are Republicans, though criticism of the search engine giant has been a bipartisan issue over the years. Democrats like Elizabeth Warren have called for similar lawsuits and breaking up the tech giant, and left-leaning states like California are reportedly pursuing similar investigations against the company. 

Notably, an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission in 2013 ended without charges, though a leaked document later revealed staff recommended a number of charges on several grounds. 

In the press conference, the DOJ said the search company has violated Section 2 of the Sherman Act by maintaining unlawful monopolies in markets for “general search services, search advertising, and general search text advertising.”

Google has also received criticism for its anti-competitive practices, including over $9 billion in fines from the European Union. Still, this marks the first time similar charges have been filed in the company’s home country. 

Concerns About Anti Competitive Practices

The lawsuit focuses on a number of business moves made by Google over the years, including using massive contracts and agreements to block competition. 

For example, Google and Apple reached a multi-billion dollar agreement to use Google’s search engine as the default on Apple mobile devices, preventing users from using other search engines by default. 

Despite these factors many say the lawsuit is far from a cut-and-dry case and could stretch on for years. Meanwhile, it could also signal the start of an avalanche of legal problems for Google is other states follow suit.

On October 24, Facebook and Instagram plan to roll out a major change which has the potential to break content across millions of sites using WordPress.

On that date, the companies will remove functionality which allows sites to embed content from the social networks. 

The change does not only mean that publishers will no longer be able to embed this content on their websites. The change is retroactive, meaning that all content ever embedded on your site could potentially become inaccessible or broken. 

There is one exception – though it will likely be impractical for many out there. 

The change is removing support for unauthenticated Facebook and Instagram embeds, meaning that those with a developer account and a registered Facebook account will still be able to link content between their app and Facebook or Instagram. 

The Technical Changes

To get into the nitty-gritty – Facebook is deprecating the current oEmbed endpoints for embeddable Facebook content on October 24, 2020. oEmbed is a popular open format means of embedding content from one site to another. 

The Facebook integration of oEmbed endpoints has allowed pages to quickly and easily embed HTML or basic content from pages, posts, and videos on their own site or app. Unfortunately, that aspect of the Facebook API is being removed. 

In response, WordPress has also said it will be removing Facebook and Instagram as supported oEmbed sources.

What You Can Do

As expected, developers began work on ways to fix content or prevent losing access as soon as the announcement was made. 

So far, there are two major options for those wanting to keep support for embedded Facebook and Instagram content on their websites:

oEmbed Plus – Developer Ayesh Karunaratne has created an expanded version of the existing system for embedding content from Instagram and Facebook which provides a workaround. 

Even using the plugin, you will have to register for a Facebook developer account and “create an app”. However, you don’t have to actually develop an app, just register one with the site. 

You can see the guide for the plugin here for an idea what the process entails.

Smash Balloon Plugins – Developer Smash Balloon has provided a potentially easier option by updating their previous plugins to provide continued support – no developer account or app required. This is possible because Smash Balloon is effectively using its own API key to provide authentication for embedded content to users. 

Twitter will soon let users crop their own image previews following criticism over apparent bias in the site’s algorithmic cropping systems. 

Currently, Twitter crops any image to 600×335 pixels, regardless of its original dimensions. However, it is up to Twitter’s algorithm to select what gets cropped out and what gets shown in the image preview.

In the near future, this is going to change. Twitter will be giving control over what is shown in tweet previews:

“We are prioritizing work to decrease our reliance on ML-based image cropping by giving people more visibility and control over what their images will look like in a Tweet.

Going forward, we are committed to following the “what you see is what you get” principles of design, meaning quite simply: the photo you see in the Tweet composer is what it will look like in the Tweet.”

Twitter Image Cropping Racial Bias

While the feature has long been requested by users, it became a priority for Twitter in recent weeks as users noticed the site’s bias defaulted to showing white faces rather than black people or other individuals of color. 

This seemed to occur no matter how the original image was formatted, and users found examples using stock photos:

Cartoons:

Well known politicians:

And even images of animals:

While Twitter denies any purposeful bias built into its algorithm, the company admits its current system has the potential for problematic results:

“While our analyses to date haven’t shown racial or gender bias, we recognize that the way we automatically crop photos means there is a potential for harm. We should’ve done a better job of anticipating this possibility when we were first designing and building this product.”

As such, the company is making changes to prevent these types of problems in the future:

“We’re aware of our responsibility, and want to work towards making it easier for everyone to understand how our systems work. While no system can be completely free of bias, we’ll continue to minimize bias through deliberate and thorough analysis, and share updates as we progress in this space.”

When Is It Coming?

The exact timeline for the changes is not known currently, as Twitter says it is still in the process of developing a solution. 

“There’s lots of work to do,” says the company.

Stories may have originated on Snapchat, but these days they are a staple feature of just about every social network out there. Now, they are officially coming somewhere few would have expected – LinkedIn.

The company has played with the idea of introducing the feature for months, with Stories appearing in elusive tests across the platform. Beginning today, though, the feature is officially rolling out to everyone within the US and Canada.

The feature is largely what you would expect, allowing users to take a photo or video, add decorations or text, and upload it to the site. After 24 hours, the post will vanish to never be seen again (unless you reupload it.)

The company is aware that users might not expect or even want Stories like you might find on Facebook or Instagram. Instead, LinkedIn’s senior director of product says early tests showed users were interested in Stories for different reasons or uses.

“Members in the past have found sharing on LinkedIn to be intimidating,” Li told Engadget. “We’re hoping it’ll spark more conversations from people who just don’t really share content on LinkedIn.”

Indeed, the company still intends for Stories to largely be professional. To help keep things focused on this, LinkedIn Stories will also feature a question of the day to steer conversation.

“You’re not meant to share the same things that you would on other networks,” Li says. “That doesn’t mean you can’t share a picture of your dog … but the goal is to keep it keep the conversations in the same vein that you would have right in your workplace.”

Li also says Stories are part of a broader initiative to help connect coworkers who might feel isolated while working from home or remotely.

Other New LinkedIn Features

In addition to the official launch of LinkedIn Stories, the professional social network has introduced a number of new partnerships which bring integration for Zoom, BlueJeans, and Microsoft Teams to the network. 

This means you can start a video call using your preferred tool directly from LinkedIn’s chat tools, without having to open a separate app.

To help make LinkedIn’s chat more useful for users, the site is also launching the ability to recall, delete, and even edit messages, use emojis in chat, and flag harassing or inappropriate messages.

These tools are expected to roll out to users sometime in October.

Google is making several tweaks to its shopping-related search results to make it easier to find the products you want locally and choose the pickup method you are most comfortable with. 

As the country gradually returns to our normal in-store shopping habits, many are making adjustments to ensure the safest trips to the store. 

For example, Google says that searches for “curbside pickup” and “safe shopping” have increased tenfold over the past few months and remain heightened. 

Making this more difficult, many businesses remain closed after mandatory shutdowns have passed, while others are struggling with inventory due to shipping disruptions around the world. 

With all this in mind, Google has announced three significant updates to shopping search results which make it easier for shoppers to know who’s open, what’s in stock, and how they can most safely make a purchase. 

Filter By What’s Available Locally

When looking for a specific type of product, searchers can now limit their search results to only products available nearby. 

This can be done in two different ways. 

  • Users can tap on the “Nearby” filter when looking at results within the Shopping tab.
  • Users can add “near me” to product searches to automatically find products available nearby.

“Want to see an item in person before purchasing, or can’t wait for shipping and delivery?

Whatever you’re looking for, whether it’s a new laptop for working from home, a baby jacket for fall or a grill for backyard barbeques, Google makes it easy for you to see what’s available locally.”

Compare Local Hours, Locations, and Inventory

Making a trip to the store only to discover they are out of what you are looking for or the store is closed was already frustrating before the COVID-19, epidemic. 

To help solve this issue, Google is making it easier to compare the stock of local shops and see which businesses are open now. 

These details will be shown when searching “[product] near me” in a carousel of images and pricing details.

Find Convenient and Safe Pickup

Since the onset of the pandemic, Google has been prioritizing retailers who offer safe pickup options including contactless delivery or curbside pickup. 

Now, the company is introducing new ways to find safe purchase options with new labels in shopping searches. 

Along with these details, the listings will include a direct link to Maps directions so you can quickly and easily find the stores nearby. 

At the same time, Google emphasizes that calling to speak with someone is the most accurate way to check the inventory of products in real-time.

Google is testing the waters of short-form videos with a new platform similar to the popular but controversial TikTok.

The company announced it is be launching a new service called YouTube Shorts which will focus on short, catchy videos like those found on TikTok or Instagram Reels. 

The announcement describes the new service as:

“Shorts is a new short-form video experience for creators and artists who want to shoot short, catchy videos using nothing but their mobile phones.“

For now, YouTube Shorts is limited to India as Google tests its features and public reception. 

Though features will be limited at launch, Google says YouTube Shorts will eventually include a variety of features, including:

  • Create and upload videos of 15-seconds or less.
  • Edit videos with a number of creative tools.
  • Stitch shorter clips together with a multi-segment camera.
  • Add music to videos from YouTube’s library.
  • Speed up or slow down videos.
  • Timers and countdowns.

Early Version

The version launching to users in India this week is reportedly a very limited version of the tool including only a portion of the features that will be implemented in the final release. 

The purpose of the early test is to get feedback from early users so the company can better prioritize their efforts before releasing the service to a wider audience. 

Of course, this is likely not the only reason the company decided to test the service in India. 

India banned TikTok from operating within its country on June 29 of this year, similar to the actions taken by President Trump to eventually force the company out of the U.S. 

With this in mind, there is a clear opportunity to those who launch their own take on the tool in the country sooner rather than later. Still, YouTube has already confirmed it will be bringing YouTube Shorts to more countries in the near future.

Google is unveiling a new service called Fundo which helps businesses, entrepreneurs, and creatives hold and monetize video events. With Fundo, event holders can set the date for their event, sell tickets, and connect with their followers all in one space. 

What Exactly is Fundo?

Fundo is an online platform which allows users to create and sell tickets to private events. Unlike many other online video event tools, there is no software or app to download. Everything is done directly on the platform’s site. 

Events can be easily publicized on other platforms, using a simple link to the event page. Users can also browse for upcoming events on the site.

Who Is Fundo For?

The primary audiences for the platform appear to be businesses, consultants, and celebrities, though the tools could be used by anyone looking to have private workshops or small discussion-based events. 

Specifically, the announcement calls out a few professions that may benefit from the platform:

“In addition to YouTube creators and their fans, we’re seeing authors, fitness instructors, business and lifestyle consultants and others use Fundo to find new ways to connect.”

Three Types of Events

For now, the platform allows for three different types of events to be held. These are:

1:1 Chat + Photos

The one-on-one event is pretty much what it sounds like – a way for creators to hold an event with a single individual or fan. This would typically be for a very casual conversation or low-key discussion. 

What sets this event apart is the introduction of a virtual photo booth feature which allows fans and creators to take virtual photos together.

For many professionals, this might not be all that interesting. However, YouTube celebrities or other well-known figures may find these one-on-one experiences a powerful way to connect with fans and still be able to monetize the experience. 

Meet and Greets

Meet and Greets are largely similar to the 1:1 type events, only with several fans or followers at a time. 

In the announcement, Google focuses on using these events to connect YouTube creators with fans for small roundtables and hangouts. 

As the company describes it:

“As a fan, you’ll have a variety of experiences to choose from. Join the Q&A with… channel members in a group Meet & Greet…”

Workshops

For most, this is going to be where Fundo really shines. 

Workshops allow for consultants, experts, and leaders to hold special events where they guide attendants through a process. 

For example, salon workers struggling to bring in clients during the pandemic can use Fundo to hold classes teaching basic hair care or styling to bring in revenue on the side. 

At the same time, these events help promote your core business by showing your abilities and expertise to all who attend. 

No matter what field you are in, Fundo workshops offer an opportunity to build your brand, showcase your goods, and connect with existing customers or fans all at once – and bring in a little bit of revenue while you’re doing it. 

How Secure Are Fundo Events

After the rise of Zoom Bombing – the act of breaking in and disrupting Zoom events – one of the biggest concerns for many virtual event holders is privacy and security. 

While the company doesn’t go into detail on how it prevents this from occurring, Google says there are no ways for users to crash an event without a ticket. 

As the announcement says:

“Safety is a top priority. Because Fundo is checking everyone’s ticket, there’s no risk of uninvited guests. We also have reporting and flagging features to curtail abuse.”


To sign up or find out more, check out the links below:

Sign Up: https://fundo.town/creators

Google’s Announcement: https://blog.google/technology/area-120/fundo/

Help Document: https://intercom.help/fundo/en/articles/4169996-how-does-fundo-work

Google Ads is reducing the amount of information it provides advertisers according to recent alerts many account managers have seen in the past week.

The company says it will soon stop giving advertisers data about search queries triggered when there is not “significant” data.

As the alert says:

“We are updating the search terms report to only include terms that were searched by a significant number of users. As a result you may see fewer terms in your report going forward.”

Why Google is Doing This

According to a statement to Search Engine Land, the search engine made this decision to protect user privacy.

“In order to maintain our standards of privacy and strengthen our protections around user data, we have made changes to our Search Terms Report to only include terms that a significant number of users searched for. We’re continuing to invest in new and efficient ways to share insights that enable advertisers to make critical business decisions.”

What This Means For Advertisers

On one hand, the opinion could be made that Google is streamlining its reports and preventing advertisers from being able to identify users or personal information based on individual queries.

For example, it is not unheard of for advertisers to see search terms made a single time or driving a single click in ad reports. That is likely to go away in the coming days, removing outliers and better protecting users.

On the other hand, many advertisers have expressed frustration over the lack of transparency. The decision to remove this information entirely means advertisers know less about where their money is going.

Additionally, Google hasn’t been entirely clear on what “significant” means, making many wary of what this shift will look like. If it just removes queries with single impressions, then advertisers are likely to accept it and move on. Still, there are countless low-volume queries with no risk to privacy which could be removed if Google decides to use a higher threshold. 

LinkedIn is expanding its features to help business owners and employees feel more connected even though they may be working from home. 

In the announcement, LinkedIn says people everywhere – especially in the professional world – are feeling less connected to each other during the ongoing pandemic. 

The company cites a recent survey from Glint which finds:

  • 31% of employees are feeling less connected to business leadership.
  • 37% of employees are feeling less connected to teammates.
  • 40% of employees feel less connected to their friends. 

Combined, these statistics show a startling need for better tools to virtually connect employees, leadership, and even friends during these socially distanced times.

As LinkedIn says:

“With a growing number of organizations announcing that their employees are required to work remotely until 2021, it’s more important than ever for organizations to take action and ensure their teams will thrive in a virtual work environment.”

To assist with this, the social network is adding three new features for LinkedIn pages to better facilitate connections between businesses, their employees, and their communities. 

Here are some quick details about the three latest LinkedIn features:

Find Out More About Your Followers

Companies have been oddly unable to see all of their LinkedIn page followers. Instead, the social network has only given businesses an aggregate total of their followers and some broad demographics about these users.

Now, business pages will have access to all publicly available information about their followers. You can even sort and filter these users by their location, industry, and current company.

“This provides the transparency needed to better understand audiences, so organizations can more easily share the right content and build their LinkedIn community around the conversations that matter most.”

Connect With Team Members In The “My Company” Tab

A new “My Company” tab is being launched to facilitate discussion and connection for employees working remotely. 

The “My Company” tab includes a range of content and features, including:

  • Highlighting employee milestones (promotions, anniversaries, etc.)
  • Trending content from coworkers
  • Recommendations to connect with coworkers you may not know yet

LinkedIn also says more features will be coming in the future. 

However, not everyone will have access to this tab. To be eligible, business pages must have more than 201 employees.

Track Upcoming Events

Virtual events have become a major part of staying informed and connected during Covid. Unfortunately, keeping track of all these events across countless platforms isn’t always easy. 

Now, LinkedIn is adding an “Events” tab which will automatically collect your page’s past, present, and upcoming events on LinkedIn. This can include everything from a small online panel, webinar, or full-scale virtual conference. 

The tab is included in the left-hand navigation menu on LinkedIn, so you can always find the latest events you and your company are participating in. 

All these features are available worldwide for all eligible pages.

As part of an ongoing legal battle with the United States government, TikTok has revealed its total number of active users for the first time ever. 

The hugely popular social app has been dominating the top charts of app stores for months, though it was never clear exactly how many people were using the app regularly. 

In a new court filing as part of the company’s lawsuit against the US government, however, TikTok shared data about its daily active and monthly users.

Active US Users

TikTok receives as many as 100 million active users in the United States every month, with 50 million users returning to the site every day. 

According to the company’s filing, that number represents an 800% increase since January of 2018.

Here are some major milestones in TikTok’s growth over the past few years:

  • 11 million monthly US users in 2018
  • 27 million monthly US users in 2019
  • 91 million monthly US users in June 2020

Since June, the app says it has increased to finally reach 100 million active monthly users from the US.

Active Global Users

In addition to revealing the company’s active US users, TikTok disclosed its total number of downloads and active users around the world. 

In total, TikTok’s app has been downloaded more than 2 billion times. 

As of July 2020, the company is seeing 700 million active users around the world each month. 

These highlights help show the overall growth of the app around the world:

  • 54 million monthly active users in January 2018
  • 271 million monthly active users in December 2018
  • 507 million monthly active users in December 2019

While these numbers are certainly impressive compared to most social networks, TikTok still lags far behind Facebook’s 2.7 billion global active users each month. 

Why TikTok Is Revealing This Now

While TikTok has steadily become one of the biggest online platforms around – especially when it comes to younger internet users – the app is in danger of being banned from the United States next month. 

The Trump Administration has filed an executive order which would ban TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance,  from operating in the United States. This came following concerns the Chinese-owned app was being used to collect personal data on Americans. 

TikTok has denied these claims and is fighting the executive order in court saying the company has been denied due process. 

If the company loses in court, it is also possible TikTok’s US operations could be sold to an American company like Microsoft.