Google’s Universal User Channel

After a relaxing day spent finishing off Steven Levy’s In the Plex, here are a handful of very quick reflections:

– Google is an AI company: their scope for supervised training algorithms (with training signals coming from user actions and corrections), as well as unsupervised training (the algorithms for which are made available, for a fee, via the Google Prediction API) is ubrivalled;

– Google is a hardware company: when I used to run robotics outreach activities, I used to joke that Lego was the world’s biggest manufacturer of tyres. Nowadays, I’m as likely to quip that at one point in its history at least, Google was the world’s biggest computer manufacturer (not strictly true – I think they’re third or fourth…?)

– Google has unprecedented tracking ability: through Google cookies, Double Click cookies, Google Analytics and the Chrome browser, they have the potential to track a ridiculous amount of web usage… (Are there any services that allow you to use e.g. your DoubleClick cookie to get a view over what data has been collected and stored against that cookie on DoubleClick Google’s databases? That is, can I turn my cookies back on the companies that set them and demand to see what data is associated with them, VRM style?)

– Google has a channel to *huge* audience through AdSense text ads, DoubleClick display ads, and embedded YouTube videos. I’m largely blind to Google AdWords – I avoid right hand side ad-filled columns like the plague – but if Google started putting my upcoming calendar events or priority email headers into the AdSense display box alongside page contextual ads, I might start looking at them as I go to look at my personal messages… Imagine it: the AdSense block, (with a publisher’s permission), including updates from members of your social circle, as well as ads… I guess if the presence of updates (“Personal network messages”, compared to “Sponsored Links”) in the AdSense block increased ad click-thrus, it would make commercial sense anyway..? If I was watching a YouTube video and an urgent/priority message hit my GMail inbox, I could get a lower third alert box appearing in the movie to tell me. And so on…

If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend it: Steven Levy’s In the Plex.

As for me, I’m going to chase this reference that I came across in the book…: David Gelertner’s Mirror Worlds: or The Day Software Puts the Universe in a Shoebox… How it Will Happen and What it Will Mean

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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