There is so much going on in Search and Social Media that I thought I’d start to cherry pick stories which I find particularly interesting every month to share them with you. These are entirely my choice and I am in no way saying that others are of lesser interest! If there is a story which you think I should have included in this round-up, please let me know.
YouTube launched auto-captioning for videos
YouTube (owned by Google) launched “auto-captioning” earlier this month. Also called speech-to-text, auto-captioning “simply” makes it possible for speech in video to be transcribed into text. Auto-captioning has been trialled by Google since November 09 and has now been rolled out to everywhere.
The benefits of auto-captioning
The most obvious benefit you can think of is for the deaf and hard of hearing. Speech-to-text is a fantastic step towards making video content accessible to them.
But let’s go a bit further. As video content is more widely used every day in education and business training, auto-captioning is going to make it easier for users to search through a video for that exact footage they need to look at.
Last but not least, video captioning is going to make video content indexation by search engines possible. Since Google launched Universal Search we knew that videos were becoming very important, but with auto-captioning, videos are going to become as important as well optimised web pages!
However as auto-captioning is based on speech recognition, one can guess that it’s not a straightforward challenge to tackle. Recent experiments of auto-captioning have been posted on YouTube in the last weeks, and these are not too convincing. Some results are even plain hilarious..(check this one for example http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9NHag5JvrE)
Nonetheless, backed by universities such as Stanford, Berkeley and Columbia, I think the YouTube auto-captioning project is certainly one of the past month’s most exciting news items. Let’s just give it a bit more time.
Microsoft and Yahoo! given the green light to join forces
Okay, this is not exactly breaking news and was announced at the end of February, but is definitely worth mentioning in this round up.
The European Commission decided that Microsoft and Yahoo! could go ahead in joining forces to provide search services. In the same movement, the US Department of Justice approved of the deal, which it sees as good for competition in the market place. Not that we really expect this long-awaited “marriage” to switfly break Google dominance, but still Microsoft Bing and Yahoo! together represent over 10% of the search market in Europe. By this agreement Bing will now become Yahoo! search engine. As for advertising revenues, Yahoo! will keep content advertising revenues and Microsoft the pay per click ads on Bing.
Microsoft and Yahoo! should be completing their integration outside the US by the end of 2012.
Google pulls out of China
On March 23rd, Google announced it had moved its Chinese Search market operations to Hong Kong. This decision followed consistent disagreements with the Chinese authorities in the last few months over auto-censorship requirements, as well as alleged hacking into human right activists’ googlemail accounts in January. Google is still available to Chinese users, but now Google SERPS for “sensitive” searches are being censored directly (and thus openly) by Chinese firewalls.
Many find it strange, however, that it took Google over 3 years to decide that auto-censorship was no longer acceptable.
The other side of the story is that since it started its operations in China, Google has tried hard to make its mark on the Chinese search and paid search market, but not done so well. The last figures delivered by ComScore (November 2009) for the Chinese search market placed Google second with 15% market share behind the towering Chinese search engine, Baidu (71.3%). Google is also said to have been consistently operating with comparatively low margins in China.
Could there be more than ethical reasons for Google leaving China? Commercially speaking the winner will be Baidu, the Search Engine supported by the Chinese government, but politically speaking? With Google no longer practising auto-censorship, will the true nature of the Chinese democracy become absolutely obvious to at least 15% of Chinese Internet users?
Is Digg Re-inventing Social news sharing?
Digg, the social voting site launched in early 2005 is ranking content (articles, videos and images) based on the number of votes received. The site also offers selective access to content by categories (technology, business, science etc). The model worked great until mid-2007, but with the rise of new social sharing platforms such as Facebook, Youtube and Twitter, Digg lost momentum and was on the decline. But with the overhaul of the site announced on March 13th, will Digg make a strong come back whilst profoundly changing the social news sharing landscape?
The new Digg will be all about personalisation. At the moment we share content with our friends in different places. The idea behind the new Digg is to enable users to aggregate in one place all content recommended by the friends that they follow on Twitter and Facebook. Digg will also suggest content based on users’ location and interests.
Finally, the new Digg should become a major promotional platform for online publishers. The site will offer an array of posting and commenting possibilities which should potentially boost the number of users. Digg also plans to develop revenue share, analytics enabled, with online publishers.
Digg will roll out these changes in the next coming weeks and months. Content publishers keep an eye on Digg!