06 September 2014

Windows Free

Little by little, Microsoft's operating system becomes free. Android's dominance forced Microsoft to make Windows Phone free. Chromebooks' popularity forced Microsoft to remove the Windows license for low-cost computers.

Windows is now a burden for hardware manufacturers: its license is a significant part of the computer's price and Windows 8 doesn't drive sales. Desktop operating systems are becoming less important, computers use less power and offload processing to the cloud.

A desktop operating system built around a browser and a mobile operating system built around openness made Google the obvious choice for Microsoft's OEMs. Two timely solutions that allowed companies like Samsung, Asus, HTC to come up with products people wanted to buy. Hardware companies usually don't write great software, so Google wrote some of the software and freed them from Windows. And now the popularity of the Windows-free products powered by Google made Windows free.

YouTube's Experiment for Related Searches

YouTube tests a new search interface that includes results for related searches. For example, when searching for [ibm ad], YouTube shows a few results for my query, then 3 lists of search results for [ibm smarter planet], [ibm ad india], [intel ad] and some other results for my query. YouTube uses the same carousel view that's also used for channels and homepage.

You can click the arrows to see more results:

Here's a video that shows an example:

How to enable this experimental feature? If you use Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari or Internet Explorer 8+:

1. open youtube.com in a new tab

2. load your browser's developer console:

* Chrome or Opera 15+ - press Ctrl+Shift+J for Windows/Linux/ChromeOS or Command-Option-J for Mac

* Firefox - press Ctrl+Shift+K for Windows/Linux or Command-Option-K for Mac

* Internet Explorer 8+ - press F12 and select the "Console" tab

* Safari 6+ - if you haven't enabled the Develop menu, open Preferences from the Safari menu, go to the Advanced tab and check "Show Develop menu in menu bar". Close Preferences and then press Command-Option-C to show the console.

* Opera 12 - press Ctrl+Shift+I for Windows/Linux or Command-Option-I for Mac, then click "Console".

3. paste the following code which changes a YouTube cookie:

document.cookie="VISITOR_INFO1_LIVE=d03DP7Ew5z0; path=/; domain=.youtube.com";window.location.reload();

4. press Enter and close the console.

To disable the experiment, use the same instructions, but replace the code from step 3 with this one:

document.cookie="VISITOR_INFO1_LIVE=; path=/; domain=.youtube.com";window.location.reload();

{ via Rubén }

HTTPS-Only YouTube

I'm not sure if this is really new, but I remember that YouTube only redirected logged-in users to the HTTPS site. Now YouTube redirects everyone to the HTTPS site. I visited YouTube's homepage, a random YouTube channel and a video in Chrome, Firefox, Opera and YouTube quickly redirected to the corresponding SSL URL.

The mobile YouTube site still uses HTTP by default, but you can manually change the URL to https://m.youtube.com.

05 September 2014

Google Removes Private Search Option

Speaking of advanced search features, here's a screenshot from April 2013 that shows Google's search filter menu. Only 4 out of the 9 features are still available: "visited pages", "not yet visited pages", "reading level" and "verbatim". The dictionary feature has been replaced with an improved dictionary card, while the other features have been removed.

Here are the features that are still available:

The latest feature that has been removed allowed you to restrict the results to "private" pages. The "personal"/"private" filter only included "content that was shared with you on Google+ or Gmail", as Google explains. You can hide personal results using the button next to the options dropdown, but you can no longer display only personal results.

{ via Search Engine Roundtable }

Google Updates Site Search Box

The experimental Google site search box spotted last week is now a regular Google feature. Google announced that the improved search box within search results is more prominent and brings autocomplete, as well as integration with the site's search features.

If the site adds some markup, Google could send users to the site's internal search page. Apparently, Amazon implemented this feature or Google used Amazon's site to test it. This page explains how to add the schema.org markup: "This markup should reference the URL pattern for your site's search queries in the target property of SearchAction. The URL pattern must point to the same domain that hosts the content being searched. It must also include a variable name in braces that is a placeholder for the user's search query."

Not all the sites have their own search engine, so Google suggests to create one using Google Custom Search. It will still use Google Search, but you can customize the search engine, change ranking, search multiple sites and even monetize it.

I don't think it's a good idea to send users to the site's internal search page, at least not as a default option. Bing already does this and it's probably useful for sites like Amazon, eBay or YouTube, which provide powerful tools for refining results. For most sites, Google's search feature is better. Now the search box will no longer provide consistent functionality: for some sites, Google will send users to their own search pages, while for other sites, Google will show its own results.

Actually, there's a way to tell if Google sends you to a different site when clicking the search box: the message inside the search box is "search site.com" instead of "results from site.com" and the list of suggestions includes an option to show "results for [query]", which sends you to a Google search results page.