Google Plus – a breath of fresh air?

For years websites like MSN and Facebook have been growing in numbers. Many rivals, less efficient and less popular social networking website, have died out as they are crushed by the giants. But Facebook seems immune from the possibility of extinction, with a growing number of users currently at over 640 million users!

MSN had a golden period and enjoyed strong competition with Facebook. But the Microsoft owned site has 120 million users and falling. It looks like MSN will be joining the likes of Bebo, Digg and Myspace.  I myself deleted my Myspace account when I decided to hop onto the Facebook bandwagon.

But for years it seemed that Facebook would never be challenged, and that was the case, until, now! A company which has 15 times the amount of revenue is stepping up to the plate. Google. The internet giant is taking over world computing. With 85% of the world using Google as their search engine, 15% of internet browsers in the world are Google Chrome – but this is fast growing – and now the $30 billion company is preparing to take on Facebook with its own social network – Google+.

In its two month infancy it is showing similar trends to Chrome and is rapidly growing in usage with 20 million worldwide users at the moment. Although this may seem puny, bear in mind it isn’t open to the world public entirely just yet.  At the moment, Google+ is an invitation only site until it opens fully in a couple of months.

I have put my name down to use it on its somewhat large waiting list. But what is all the hype?

Key Feature:

  • Circles – This allows me to group my friends, so for example:
    • Music pals – Joe, Tom, Abby…
    • School pals – Michael, Adam…
    • Work Colleagues – Jane, Adam, Monica…
  • Hangouts – A 10 people group video chat
  • Sparks – Using Google’s search engine you can search for interests
  • The Stream – Users can see their Circles’ updates – similar to Facebook’s wall
  • +1 – Allowing people to recommend items and websites

These are just some of the functions available to use on +.  But is it what we are looking for?

The Google+ ProjectIn my opinion yes, just like Google Chrome did with Internet Explorer it will provide a breath of fresh air to the social networking industry and I think will be a very realistic competitor to Facebook.

It seems like it is made with much more quality and with far more enhanced features than Facebook, which has many problems, technically and pragmatically.

So I for one am really looking forward to joining it and setting up my profile when it becomes open to the public.

Google gives users malware warnings

Yes you read right, Google is now giving users alerts if it believes that their system is infected with malware.

Over the last week, millions of users will have logged on to Google, only to find a warning telling them that Google believes that their computer ‘appears to be infected’.

Here is an image of that very message:


A Google warning telling users that their computer appears to be infected

Okay my PC isn't infected so I couldn't show you an actual message, but a clever bit of Photoshopping can help me to show you 😉

Google says that it is trying to improve the web for users, and in doing so, it believes that it can enhance users experience, and keep them safer online.

Malware can send users to ‘virus’ pages when they search Google, one of the main reasons why Google wants to help users fight it. The other is that often malware can send tonnes of spammy traffic towards Google. This is not very good for their servers, and could potentially become very costly.

Sometimes Google needs to turn some of its servers off for maintenance, meaning they need to redirect the traffic. However certain malware can keep ‘spamming’ these servers with unwanted traffic, causing the guys at Google a bit of a problem!

Google says that the main cause of malware infection is users downloading face anti-viruses when instructed to by bogus warnings on false websites.

The search giant does currently offer warnings to users on some websites that it knows could potentially infect their computer. Here is an example of the text it may put below a potentially dangerous search result:

This site may harm your computer

An example of the "This site may harm your computer." text that features below some search results in Google

Keeping safe online is a challenge, so it’s good to know that along with our anti-virus software, Google is also watching our back.

To find out more you can read the official blog post on Google’s blog 🙂

Search engines are changing the way our memory works

A recent article in Science Mag suggests that the use of computers and the internet might actually be changing the way our memory works.

A series of psychology experiments recently carried out have shown that sometimes, when people were presented with hard to answer questions, they began to think of computers.

If participants believed that it would be easy to find answers on Google later, then they had poorer recall of the actual answer, and yet a greater memory of where the answer was stored.

A head x-ray showing someone with a computer for a brainThe researchers said that the internet acts as a tool which we now depend upon to to aid our memories, by remembering some data for us.

Here is the abstract for the journal entry

The advent of the Internet, with sophisticated algorithmic search engines, has made accessing information as easy as lifting a finger. No longer do we have to make costly efforts to find the things we want. We can “Google” the old classmate, find articles online, or look up the actor who was on the tip of our tongue. The results of four studies suggest that when faced with difficult questions, people are primed to think about computers and that when people expect to have future access to information, they have lower rates of recall of the information itself and enhanced recall instead for where to access it. The Internet has become a primary form of external or transactive memory, where information is stored collectively outside ourselves.

In more simplified English, what this is basically saying is that it is now much easier to access data online, mainly thanks to search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. If we have a question, we can find the answer in seconds.


This has lead the the human brain associating the thought of a problem with computers, as it believes that the internet will be the source of the solution. Search engines are now embeded so much in our brain, that when we think of a problem, we no longer bother trying to work out the answer for ourselves, but instead we associate the possibility of finding the solution of the problem with a search engine.

Let’s be honest, who hasn’t been bugged by something, asked someone else who also wasn’t able to help and as a result was either told “Google it” or thought “I could Google that”? I have, in fact I would say it happens on a weekly basis!

Question time

So what do you think? Are computers, the internet and search engines making us stupid, or is it just that we are now adapting as a race to more efficient ways of finding out information?