Posts tagged ‘World Wide Web’


On the verge of a change for the better

13.11.2022

I can’t find the original toot on Mastodon but I was led to this piece in the MIT Technology Review by Chris Stokel-Walker, ‘Here’s how a Twitter engineer says it will break in the coming weeks’.

As I’ve cut back on my Twitter usage, I haven’t witnessed any issues, but it does highlight the efforts Big Tech goes to in order to maintain their sites. If anything, it explains why Facebook failed so regularly and so often, as documented on this blog.

The prediction? An anonymous engineer tells the Review:

“Things will be broken. Things will be broken more often. Things will be broken for longer periods of time. Things will be broken in more severe ways,” he says. “Everything will compound until, eventually, it’s not usable.”

Twitter’s collapse into an unusable wreck is some time off, the engineer says, but the telltale signs of process rot are already there. It starts with the small things: “Bugs in whatever part of whatever client they’re using; whatever service in the back end they’re trying to use. They’ll be small annoyances to start, but as the back-end fixes are being delayed, things will accumulate until people will eventually just give up.”

I wonder if they will give up, since I’ve encountered Facebook bugs almost since the day I joined, and there are still people there. In fact, like tech experts, some fellow users even blame me, saying that I encounter more bugs than anyone they know. I doubt this: I just remember the bugs better than they do. We’ve all been subject to the well publicized global outages—just that the majority don’t remember them.

While one contact of mine disagrees, I think Twitter won’t collapse on its own. Mastodon could be an alternative, encouraging people away, just as Google enticed Altavista users over; or Facebook saw to the end of Myspace. There seems to be a new era coming, sweeping away the old, especially as Big Tech falters. Twitter has lost a huge chunk of its staff, and Facebook has slashed its ranks by 11,000. Mojeek has emerged as a credible, privacy-respecting alternative to Google—as Microsoft Bing collapses, taking with it its proxies, Duck Duck Go, Ecosia, Yahoo! and others. The web’s future feels more open, more optimistic, with these technologies spurring civilized dialogue and sparking ideas. It could almost be time to bring back the day-glo on a Wired cover.

On the other hand, maybe Twitter can collapse on its own, with a fake blue-tick EIi LiIIy, looking to the world like Eli Lilly, announcing free insulin and sending Eli Lilly’s share price tumbling, wiping milliards off its value. With advertisers pulling out (little wonder if their Twitter account managers are fired) it may look very different come Christmas.

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Posted in business, internet, technology, USA | No Comments »


Testing the seven search engines in the world

22.08.2022

After reading Mojeek’s blog post from last July, I learned there are only seven search engines in the world now. In other words, I was checking more search engines out in the 1990s. It’s rather depressing, especially as the search market is largely a monopoly with Google dominating it (and all the ills that brings), and Bing and its licensees (like Duck Duck Go) with their 6 per cent.

Knowing there are seven, I fed the site:lucire.com search into all of them to see where each stood.

The first figure is the claimed number of results, the second the actual number shown (without repeats removed, which Bing is guilty of).

I can’t use Brave here as its site search is Bing as well.

Yandex appears to be capped at 250 and Mojeek at 1,000, but at least they aren’t arbitrary like Google and Baidu. Baidu has a lot of category and tag pages from the Wordpress section of our site to bump up the numbers.
 
Gigablast 0/0
Sogou 19/13
Bing 243/50
Baidu 13,700/213
Yandex 2,000/250
Google 6,280/315
Mojeek 3,654/1,000
 

Frankly, more of us should go to Mojeek. It can only get better with a wider user base. Unlike Bing, it hasn’t collapsed. I know most of you will keep going to Google, but I just don’t like the look of those limits (not to mention the massive privacy issues).

Mojeek is now at 5,900 million pages, which must be the largest index in the west outside of Google.

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Posted in China, internet, publishing, technology, UK, USA | No Comments »


Time to get New York involved

19.08.2022

Still nothing from the Spanish outpost of Hearst or from Red Points Solution SL on their false accusation against Lucire, so tonight I contacted one of the Hearst VPs in New York—as they’ll more likely understand where we’re coming from. Whenever there’s been a copyright matter, Americans tend to respond quickly, faster than Europeans or the British—except for Big Tech, natch. Those folks you need to threaten. It’s frustrating to continue seeing a DMCA notice when we do a site: search on Google, one that isn’t warranted. I’ve found a senior enough VP—I’ve been around long enough to know who’s who—who I think would get it.

Further investigation shows Red Points being named as defendant in quite a few cases—and they’re just the ones that the search engines have picked up. Who knows how many others aren’t put online or are worthy enough of being reported on?

I’d be extremely wary of a company whose technology appears to be very unreliable, if our case is any indication, and exposing their clients to lawsuits. I see from the Google complaint only two sites have fallen foul to their specious claims—and you have to ask why not every single article written about Valentina Sampaio being named Armani Beauty’s newest ambassador? Were we picked out because they felt we were small enough to be picked on and that we wouldn’t fight back? And why would they risk claiming not only our original content as their client’s, but the work of L’Oréal—a major Hearst advertiser—too? It’s potentially destructive for Hearst and harms its relationship with an advertiser.

They’ve picked on the wrong people—especially a magazine that is known to some people inside Hearst.
 
I was curious to see what part of the Spanish web I had accessed in the last year. Answer: not a lot. More in the last day or so looking up Hearst’s Spanish outpost.
 

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Bing has tanked

24.07.2022

Well, folks, here’s someone who’s done the maths. The stats in the last post suggested as much but the sample was so small.

Maurice de Kunder at WorldWideWebSize.com has a definitive graph:
 

 

His methodology is explained at his site.

I’d say late May or early June was when I noticed Duck Duck Go queries on Lucire become largely useless. After a month of seeing no improvement, I began looking into alternatives.

No one knows why, since Bing’s not going to admit any of this. If I was Duck Duck Go, I’d be looking into alternatives smartly. Anyone want to get in touch with Alltheweb and Inktomi? Their indices in the early 2000s were bigger than this.
 
PS.: I tried to tell the SEO sub-Reddit, but no joy. It was immediately removed.
 

 
The original text:

Since June I noticed that our internal site:domain.com searches powered by Duck Duck Go were not returning many results any more. As DDG is powered by Bing, I checked it out there, and, sure enough, we dipped from thousands of entries to 50 (and even 10 at one point). This is a 25-year-old site with decent inbound links.

I did a lot of investigating which I wrote up on my own blog (which I won’t link here due to sub-Reddit rules) and came across this website, which seems to suggest Bing has tanked. The person who runs it is pretty clued up on statistics.

I have run a small sample of 10 sites through the search engines as well and these back up their findings.

At this rate, Bing is smaller than Inktomi and Alltheweb in the early 2000s. What strikes me as weird is that all the Bing licensees haven’t done anything, either, so Duck Duck Go, Ecosia, Qwant, and Onesearch have all shrunk, too. (Swisscows is still reasonably sized.)

Anyone else been through something similar in the last two months?

Why don’t they wish to know? I would have thought this was rather serious for an SEO group.

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Posted in internet, technology | 6 Comments »


Putting the search engines through their paces

24.07.2022

One more, and I might give the subject a rest. Here I test the search engines for the term Lucire. This paints quite a different picture.

Lucire is an established site, dating from 1997, indexed by all major search engines from the start. The word did not exist online till the site began. It does exist in old Romanian. There is a (not oft-used) Spanish conjugated verb, I believe, spelt the same.

The original site is very well linked online, as you might expect after 25 years. You would normally expect, given its age and the inbound links, to see lucire.com at the top of any index.

There is a Dr Yolande Lucire in Australia whom I know, who I’m used to seeing in the search engine results.

The scores are simply for getting relevant sites to us into the top 10, and no judgement is made about their quality or relevance.
 
Google
lucire.com
twitter.com
lucire.net
instagram.com
wikipedia.org
linkedin.com
facebook.com
pinterest.nz
neighbourly.co.nz
—I hate to say it, as someone who dislikes Google, but all of the top 10 results are relevant. Fair play. Then again, with the milliards it has, and with this as its original product, it should do well. 10/10
 
Mojeek
scopalto.com
lucirerouge.com
lucire.net
lucire.com
mujerhoy.com
portalfeminino.com
paperblog.com
dailymotion.com
eldiablovistedezara.net
hispanaglobal.com
Mojeek might be flavour of the month for me, but these results are disappointing. Scopalto retails Lucire in France, so that’s fair enough, but disappointing to see the original lucire.com site in fourth. Fifth, sixth, seventh, ninth and tenth are irrelevant and relate to the Spanish word lucir. You’d have to get to no. 25 to see Lucire again, for Yola’s website. Then it’s more lucir results till no. 52, the personal website of one of our editors. 5/10
 
Swisscows
lucire.net
wikipedia.org
lucire.com
spanishdict.com
lucire.net
lucire.com
drlucire.com
facebook.com
spanishdict.com
viyeshierelucre.com
—Considering it sources from Bing, it makes the same mistakes by placing the rarely linked lucire.net up top, and lucire.com in third. Fourth, ninth and tenth are irrelevant, and the last two relate to different words. Yola’s site is seventh, which is fair enough. 6/10
 
Baidu
lucire.net
lucire.com
lucire.cc
lucire.com
kanguowai.com
hhlink.com
vocapp.com
forvo.com
kuwo.cn
lucirehome.com
—Interesting mixture here. Strange, too, that lucire.net comes up top. We own lucire.cc but it’s now a forwarding domain (it was once our link shortener, up to a decade ago). Seventh and ninth relate to the Romanian word strălucire and eighth to the Romanian word lucire. The tenth domain is an old one, succeeded a couple of years ago by lucirerouge.com. Not very current, then. 7/10
 
Startpage
lucire.com
lucire.com
lucire.net
instagram.com
wikipedia.org
linkedin.com
facebook.com
pinterest.nz
fashionmodeldirectory.com
twitter.com
—All relevant, as expected, since it’s all sourced from Google. 10/10
 
Virtual Mirage
lucire.com
instagram.com
wikipedia.org
lucire.net
facebook.com
linkedin.com
pinterest.nz
lucirerouge.com
nih.gov
twitter.com
—I don’t know much about this search engine, since I only heard about it from Holly Jahangiri earlier today. A very good effort, with only the ninth one being irrelevant to us: it’s a paper co-written by Yola. 9/10
 
Yandex
lucire.com
lucire.net
facebook.com
twitter.com
wikipedia.org
instagram.com
wikipedia.eu
pinterest.nz
en-academic.com
wikiru.wiki
—This is the Russian version. All are relevant, and they are fairly expected, other than the ninth result which I’ve not come across this high before, although it still relates to Lucire. 10/10
 
Bing
lucire.net
wikipedia.org
lucire.com
spanishdict.com
lucire.com
facebook.com
drlucire.com
spanishdict.com
twitter.com
lucirahealth.com
—How Bing has slipped. There are sites here relating to the Spanish word lucirse and to Lucira, who makes PCR tests for COVID-19. One is for Yola. 7/10
 
Qwant.com
lucire.net
wikipedia.org
spanishdict.com
drlucire.com
spanishdict.com
tumblr.com
lucirahealth.com
lacire.co
amazon.com
lucirahealth.com
—For a Bing-licensed site, this is even worse. No surprise to see lucire.com gone here, given how inconsistently Bing has treated it of late. But there are results here for Lucira and a company called La Cire. The Amazon link is also for Lucira. 3/10
 
Qwant.fr
lucire.net
wikipedia.org
reverso.net
luciremen.com
lucire.com
twitter.com
lacire.co
lucirahealth.com
viyeshierelucre.com
lucirahealth.com
—The sites change slightly if you use the search box at qwant.fr. The Reverso page is for the Spanish word luciré. Sixth through tenth are irrelevant and do not even relate to the search term. Eleventh and twelfth are for lucire.com and facebook.com, so there were more relevant pages to come. The ranking or relevant results, then, leaves something to be desired. 5/10
 
Duck Duck Go
lucire.com
lucire.net
wikipedia.org
spanishdict.com
drlucire.com
spanishdict.com
lucirahealth.com
amazon.com
lacire.co
luciremen.com
—Well, at least the Duck puts lucire.com up top, and the home page at that (even if Bing can’t). Only four relevant results, with Lucire Men coming in at tenth. 4/10
 
Brave
lucire.com
instagram.com
twitter.com
wikipedia.org
linkedin.com
lucire.net
facebook.com
fashion.net
wiktionary.org
nsw.gov.au
—For the new entrant, not a bad start. Shame about the smaller index size. All of these relate to us except the last two, one a dictionary and the other referring to Yolande Lucire. 8/10
 

The results are surprising from these first results’ pages.
 
★★★★★★★★★★ Google
★★★★★★★★★★ Yandex
★★★★★★★★★★ Startpage
★★★★★★★★★☆ Virtual Mirage
★★★★★★★★☆☆ Brave
★★★★★★★☆☆☆ Baidu
★★★★★★★☆☆☆ Bing
★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ Swisscows
★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ Mojeek
★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ Qwant.fr
★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ Duck Duck Go
★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ Qwant.com
 

It doesn’t change my mind about the suitability of Mojeek for internal searches though. It’s still the one with the largest index aside from Google, and it doesn’t track you.

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Posted in China, France, internet, publishing, technology, UK, USA | 2 Comments »


How to end social media censorship

16.04.2022


Kristina Flour/Unsplash
 
This Twitter thread by Yishan Wong is one of the most interesting I’ve come across. Not because it’s about Elon Musk (who he begins with), but because it’s about the history of the web, censorship, and the reality of running a social platform.

Here are some highlights (emphases in the original):

There is this old culture of the internet, roughly Web 1.0 (late 90s) and early Web 2.0, pre-Facebook (pre-2005), that had a very strong free speech culture.

This free speech idea arose out of a culture of late-90s America where the main people who were interested in censorship were religious conservatives. In practical terms, this meant that they would try to ban porn (or other imagined moral degeneracy) on the internet …

Many of the older tech leaders today … grew up with that internet. To them, the internet represented freedom, a new frontier, a flowering of the human spirit, and a great optimism that technology could birth a new golden age of mankind.

Fast forward to the reality of the 2020s:

The internet is not a “frontier” where people can go “to be free,” it’s where the entire world is now, and every culture war is being fought on it.

It’s the main battlefield for our culture wars.

Yishan points out that left-wingers can point to where right-wingers get more freedom to say their piece, and that right-wingers can point to where left-wingers get more. ‘Both sides think the platform is institutionally biased against them.’

The reality:

They would like you (the users) to stop squabbling over stupid shit and causing drama so that they can spend their time writing more features and not have to adjudicate your stupid little fights.

That’s all.

They don’t care about politics. They really don’t.

He concedes that people can be their worst selves online, and that the platforms struggle to keep things civil.

They have to pretend to enforce fairness. They have to adopt “principles.”

Let me tell you: There are no real principles. They are just trying to be fair because if they weren’t, everyone would yell louder and the problem would be worse …

You really want to avoid censorship on social networks? Here is the solution:

Stop arguing. Play nice. The catch: everyone has to do it at once.

I guarantee you, if you do that, there will be no censorship of any topic on any social network.

Because it is not topics that are censored. It is behavior.

I think Yishan’s right to some degree. There are leanings that the leaders of these social networks have, and I think that can affect the overall decisions. But he’s also right that both left and right feel aggrieved. I warned as much when I wrote about social media and their decision about Donald Trump in the wake of the incidents of January 6, 2021. I’ve seen left- and right-wing accounts get taken down, and often for no discernible reason I can fathom.

Generally, however, civil discourse is a perfectly fine way to go, and for most things that doesn’t invite censorship or account removal. Wouldn’t it be nice if people took him up on this, to see what would happen?

Sadly, that could well be as idealistic as the ‘new frontier’ which many of us who got into the dot com world in the 1990s believed in.

But maybe he’s woken up some folks. And with c. 50,000 followers, he has a darn sight better chance than I have reaching just over a tenth of that on Twitter, and the 1,000 or so of you who will read this blog post.
 
During the writing of this post, Vivaldi crashed again, when I attempted to enter form data—a bug that they believed was fixed a few revisions ago. It appears not. I’ll still send over a bug report, but everything is pointing at my abandoning it in favour of Opera GX. Five years is a very good run for a browser.

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Posted in culture, internet, politics, technology, USA | No Comments »


Contextual targeting worked, so why abandon it?

27.09.2021

Didn’t I already say this?

   Contextual targeting worked for so long on the web, although for some time I’ve noticed ads not displaying on sites where I’ve blocked trackers or had third-party cookies turned off. That means there are ad networks that would rather do their clients, publishers and themselves out of income when they can’t track. Where’s the wisdom in that?
   I can’t believe it took Apple’s change in favour of privacy for the online advertising mob to take notice.
   This is how I expect it to work (and it’s a real screenshot from Autocade).

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Searching for Murray Smith

09.12.2020

Earlier today Strangers, the 1978 TV series created by Murray Smith, came to mind. Smith created and wrote many episodes of one of my favourite TV series, The Paradise Club (which to this day has no DVD release due to the music rights), and penned an entertaining miniseries Frederick Forsyth Presents (the first time that I noticed one Elizabeth Hurley) and a novel I bought when I first spotted it, The Devil’s Juggler. He also wrote one of my favourite Dempsey and Makepeace episodes, ‘Wheel Man’, which had quite a few of the hallmarks of some of his other work, including fairly likeable underworld figures, which came into play with The Paradise Club.
   Yet there’s precious little about Smith online. His Wikipedia entry is essentially a version of his IMDB credits with some embellishments, for instance. It doesn’t even record his real name.
   Don’t worry, it’s not another dig at Wikipedia, but once again it’s a reflection of how things aren’t permanent on the web, a subject I’ve touched on before after reading a blog entry from my friend Richard MacManus. And that we humans do have to rely on our own memories over what’s on the ’net still: the World Wide Web is not the solution to storing all human knowledge, or, at least, not the solution to accessing it.
   It’s easy to refer to the disappearance of Geocities and the like, and the Internet Archive can only save so much. And in this case, I remember clearly searching for Murray Smith on Altavista in the 1990s, because I was interested in what he was up to. (He died in 2003.) I came across a legal prospectus of something he was proposing to do, and because it was a legal document, it gave his actual name.
   Murray Smith was his screen name, and I gather from an article in The Independent quoting Smith and his friend Frederick Forsyth, he went by Murray, but the family name was definitely Murray-Smith. Back in those days, there was a good chance that if it was online, it was real: it took too much effort to make a website for anyone to bother doing fake news. My gut says it was George David Murray-Smith or something along those lines, but there’s no record of that prospectus online any more, or of the company that he and Forsyth set up together to make Frederick Forsyth Presents, which I assume from some online entries was IFS Productions Ltd. Some websites’ claim that his name was Charles Maurice Smith is incorrect.
   Looking today, there are a couple of UK gazette entries for George David Murray Smith (no hyphen) in the armed forces, including the SAS in the 1970s, which suggest I am right.
   Even in the age of the web, the advantage still lies with those of us who have good memories who can recall facts that are lost. I’ve often suggested on this blog that we cannot fully trust technology, and that there’s no guarantee that even the official bodies, like the UK Companies’ Office, will have complete, accessible records. The computer is a leveller, but not a complete one.

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Posted in business, culture, interests, internet, TV, UK | 1 Comment »


Search engines favour novelty over accuracy and merit

01.10.2020

I was chatting to another Tweeter recently about the Ford I-Max, and decided I’d have a hunt for its brochure online. After all, this car was in production from 2007 to 2009, the World Wide Web was around, so surely it wouldn’t be hard to find something on it?
   I found one image, at a very low resolution. The web’s not a repository of everything: stuff gets removed, sites go down, search engines are not comprehensive—in fact, search engines favour the new over the old, so older posts that are still current—such as this post about the late George Kennedy—can’t even be found. This has been happening for over a decade, so it shouldn’t surprise us—but we should be concerned that we cannot get information based on merit or specificity, but on novelty. Not everything new is right, and if we’re only being exposed to what’s “in”, then we’re no better at our knowledge than our forebears. The World Wide Web, at least the way it’s indexed, is not a giant encyclopædia which brings up the best at your fingertips, but often a reflection of our bubble or what the prevailing orthodoxy is. More’s the pity.

I can’t let this post go without one gripe about Facebook. Good news: as far as I can tell, they fixed the bug about tagging another page on your own page, so you don’t have to start a new line in order to tag another party. Bad news, or maybe it’s to do with the way we’ve set up our own pages: the minute you do, the nice preview image that Facebook extracted vanishes in favour of something smaller. I’ll check out our code, but back when I was debugging Facebook pages, it was pretty good at finding the dominant image on a web page. Lesson: don’t tag anyone. It ruins the æsthetic on your page, and it increases everyone’s time on the site, and that can never be healthy. Time to fight the programming of Professor Fogg and his children (with apologies to Roger McNamee).



Top: The post Facebook picks up from an IFTTT script. Above: What happens to a post that once had a proper image preview after editing, and tags added.

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Posted in cars, culture, interests, internet, technology | No Comments »


Even the web is forgetting our history

26.04.2020


Hernán Piñera/Creative Commons/CC BY-SA 2.0

My friend Richard MacManus wrote a great blog post in February on the passing of Clive James, and made this poignant observation: ‘Because far from preserving our culture, the Web is at best forgetting it and at worst erasing it. As it turns out, a website is much more vulnerable than an Egyptian pyramid.’
   The problem: search engines are biased to show us the latest stuff, so older items are being forgotten.
   There are dead domains, of course—each time I pop by to our links’ pages, I find I’m deleting more than I’m adding. I mean, who maintains links’ pages these days, anyway? (Ours look mega-dated.) But the items we added in the 1990s and 2000s are vanishing and other than the Internet Archive, Richard notes its Wayback Machine is ‘increasingly the only method of accessing past websites that have otherwise disappeared into the ether. Many old websites are now either 404 errors, or the domains have been snapped up by spammers searching for Google juice.’
   His fear is that sites like Clive James’s will be forgotten rather than preserved, and he has a point. As a collective, humanity seems to desire novelty: the newest car, the newest cellphone, and the newest news. Searching for a topic tends to bring up the newest references, since the modern web operates on the basis that history is bunk.
   That’s a real shame as it means we don’t get to understand our history as well as we should. Take this pandemic, for instance: are there lessons we could learn from MERS and SARS, or even the Great Plague of London in the 1660s? But a search is more likely to reveal stuff we already know or have recently come across in the media, like a sort of comfort blanket to assure us of our smartness. It’s not just political views and personal biases that are getting bubbled, it seems human knowledge is, too.
   Even Duck Duck Go, my preferred search engine, can be guilty of this, though a search I just made of the word pandemic shows it is better in providing relevance over novelty.
   Showing results founded on their novelty actually makes the web less interesting because search engines fail to make it a place of discovery. If page after page reveals the latest, and the latest is often commodified news, then there is no point going to the second or third pages to find out more. Google takes great pride in detailing the date in the description, or ‘2 days ago’ or ‘1 day ago’. But if search engines remained focused on relevance, then we may stumble on something we didn’t know, and be better educated in the process.
   Therefore, it’s possibly another area that Big Tech is getting wrong: it’s not just endangering democracy, but human intelligence. The biases I accused Google News and Facebook of—viz. their preference for corporate media—build on the dumbing-down of the masses.
   I may well be wrong: maybe people don’t want to get smarter: Facebook tells us that folks just want a dopamine hit from approval, and maybe confirmation of our own limited knowledge gives us the same. ‘Look at how smart I am!’ Or how about this collection?
   Any expert will tell you that the best way to keep your traffic up is to generate more and more new content, and it’s easy to understand why: like a physical library, the old stuff is getting forgotten, buried, or even—if they can’t sell or give it away—pulped.
   Again, there’s a massive opportunity here. A hypothetical new news aggregator can outdo Google News by spidering and rewarding independent media that break news, by giving them the best placement—as Google News used to do. That encourages independent media to do their job and opens the public up to new voices and viewpoints. And now a hypothetical new search engine could outdo Google by providing relevance over novelty, or at least getting the balance of the two right.

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Posted in culture, interests, internet, media, New Zealand, publishing, technology, Wellington | 1 Comment »