Source: Official Blogger Blog: It’s spring cleaning time for Blogger

I’ve been reading a lot of “places to host your blog” type articles. Most have added a note of caution about Google abandoning services.  It looks like a mixed bag. Improvements are being made to Blogger but at the same time some features are being discontinued.

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I have a Nokia 6.1 (US 2018) phone running AndroidOne. No complaints except the camera locks up every once in awhile, but I’m not a big camera user.

So I’m in my car, pulling out of my neighborhood onto a highway.  My phone is in my shirt pocket.  Suddenly the phone starts playing a sorta doo wop tune over the speaker, a tune I’d never heard before. Then it went to voice over, it was a commercial!  I know it said something about Google and maybe it said something about Wifi.  I, of course, was busy, fumbling, trying to get the phone out of my pocket. But I’m fricking driving on a highway. I manage to thumb the lock screen on and see some notification saying something like “Dave’s open wifi network” or words to that effect.  But I’m fricken driving so I can’t PIN unlock the phone.  Then the commercial is over, the speaker goes dead and the notification disappears from the lock screen.

WTF just happened?

That’s the first time something like that has ever happened to me.  The Nokia does have a FM radio receiver built in but I’ve never used it.  I got no repeat of the incident, in that area, on the way home.

I did a full antivirus scan and a full malware scan that evening, two different programs, neither found anything.

I’m just putting it down to the freakishness of radio waves – wifi is really just radio waves.  But it was strange.

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You’ve heard it a million times. You’ve probably blogged about it enough until you’re sick to your stomach. PageRank is based on citation statistics. Every document gets a “…

Bookmarked: Math Union Study Devalues Citation Statistics (and PageRank) – SEO Theory

Quality: the thing that a human editor, particularly an expert human editor, can measure that Google cannot.

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Despite my dislike and distrust of Google, I use an AndroidOne phone.  The EU’s ruling that Google Android violates EU antitrust laws is both welcome and disappointing since it is weaker than I would like.

But it still has the potential to open up Android on so many fronts:

Android Forks – example given Amazon’s FireOS

Search engine choice – this could be huge. Especially for regional/national/language specific search engines.  For instance, before Google the UK used to have dozens even hundreds of UK-specific and UK local search engines and directories. Most all died.  And, today it’s hard to gain any kind of traction for development of any type of search engine with Google locking down the market.  Ditto other markets like EU search, Germany, France or even smaller countries.

Maps – another huge area.

Email – along with other web services like Calendar, Photos, etc.

Browsers – again this could be a big boost if an OEM can make Firefox, Opera or others the default browser.

Still, we need more than just two mobile OS’s.  So I’m glad I’m getting a true Linux phone early in 2019.

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Google’s latest European Union woes could mean opportunity knocks for app developers stymied by contracts that pre-install the U.S. giant’s own services on Android phones and tablets, according to analysts and companies.

Source: EU’s Attack on Android Boosts Rivals in the Battle of the Apps – Bloomberg

This could be huge not just for other search engines but also browser developers, email providers, maps, etc.  Google monopoly has in effect smothered all competition on these fronts. Nobody can gain any traction.  It’s time.

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I am looking at Curlie.org, which is the continuation of the human edited Open Directory Project (dmoz.org), and my conclusion remains the same: unfortunately, big static meta directories are obsolete for daily web search.  It pains me to say that because I was a directory owner for many years.

Google has the Curlie’s of the web beat on every point save one big issue: Quality.  A good human editor can say, “this site is quality on the subject, and it deserves to be listed and it deserves to be found.” It’s a bit like a librarian recommending a book: you know it’s going to be on topic and probably pretty good.

The Limits of Google

Google can’t do that.  Google can really only measure, popularity and that is not quality.  Despite all the 200 Plus ranking factors Google claims it still can’t distinguish quality.  You can have authorrank, pagerank, domain authority, encryption, mobile friendly, metatags, title tags, on page factors but they still can’t tell you that one page is brilliantly written and the other not so much.

Theoretically, the brilliantly written page will eventually gain more links back, more notice, but how long do you have to wait: months, years?

We first discussed this back in 2000 on the old Searchking.com forums, and even though Google has improved in so many ways, that central fact remains true.

Does it Matter?

Well actually, it can.  When Google was young, it used listing in dmoz.org as a factor in it’s ranking calculations.  Pages listed in the directory got into Google’s index a bit quicker as well.  There is no reason a new search engine cannot do the same.  I’m making these numbers up, but let’s say Curlie has 4 million URL’s listed. While 4 million is small in search engine terms, it still helps identify the cream and in effect say – “These are the ‘warhorses.'”

Old School

Of course there is the old school (Web 1.0) way of incorporating a large meta directory into your Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs): include  those directory category breadcrumb links that might match the search query into either the top or the bottom of your SERP.  It’s not very satisfying to the searcher, but it can help as a stopgap.  Yahoo did this with their directory, NBCi did it with theirs and (old) HotBot, Lycos did it with domoz.org.  A user preference switch to turn that feature on and off might work.

Anyway, the answer is yes, human edited directories can still have value if they are used right. A fountain pen is a perfectly good writing instrument, we just don’t use them much everyday for writing.

Feel free to tell me what uses am I not seeing.

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There may be a webring revival afoot.  Webrings had their heyday back in the 1990’s.  Good search engines, like Google helped make them redundant.  Fear of Google, the decline and fall of free hosted websites like Geocities helped kill them off. Yahoo ruining Webring.org didn’t help either.

I was a Ringmaster of several webrings on the old HTML code Webring.org.  I also had several rings on Ringsurf.com.  Eventually, whilst turning my Scifimatter directory into a portal, I added webring hosting which made me a mini-webring host for a few years. Keep in mind this was a time when it was more common to surf the web than use a primitive search engine. (BTW, Ringsurf.com is still around, but I have no idea how they operate today.)

The neat thing about webrings was they were like micro web directories.  They were like taking a subject subcategory of a web directory and linking the sites all together.  The topic possibilities were endless: Dwarves in Tolkien, Vulcans in Star Trek, One Handed Knitters that only use Alpaca Yarn.  You could slice those topics very thinly and create a webring.

Surfing a webring was a bit like getting on a two lane highway, you didn’t know what kind of site or page you would encounter next, all you knew is each site had something to do with the same topic and it was up to the Ringmaster to act as editor and keep crummy sites out and insure the ring codes were in place and working to insure the navigational integrity of the Ring.

I can tell you one thing: being a Ringmaster, in the old days, was a lot of work.  Just try explaining, by email, how to edit HTML to a brand new webmaster that knows nothing about HTML.  Maintaining the navigational integrity of the ring often meant surfing the ring yourself, regularly which burns up time.   Things should be more automated today.

Web Promotion

Webrings were an easy way to gain instant traffic to your website.  And rings did provide steady traffic in their prime.  Not commercial levels of traffic, but most websites were not commercial they were informational so any traffic was good.  If we use the road analogy,  joining a webring was like putting your website on a highway.  If you joined more than one ring it was a bit like locating at a crossroads, a crossroads that you helped create.

Webrings brought instant traffic.  Don’t underestimate the value of this.  With modern search engines, you have to somehow gain links back to your site from other websites before you start ranking high in searches.  In the early days of Google it took at least a month to get listed let alone rank.  Even today that can take some time.  In the meantime discovery is difficult.

Webrings brought quality traffic; people surfing a webring of sites about Mr. Spock of Star Trek are sort of pre-qualified to want to stay and read your Spock page(s).  If you had good content the audience was appreciative.

The Odds are with the House

The person who gained the most traffic and exposure was generally the Ringmaster, the person running the ring.  Joining a webring was good, but creating and running one was better. It was common to build in a link to the Ring homepage into the HTML code all ring members must display.  The Ring Homepage contained the rules, qualifications to join, help and FAQ.  If you were smart the Ring Homepage was a web page of your larger site and a certain amount of visitors might thus explore your site more widely.  Plus of course your site was also part of the webring, giving you additional chances for somebody to hit your site.

SEO and Webrings

Webrings were by design, intended to bring traffic to their members.  Webrings were never intended to manipulate search engines, link popularity or Google’s highly touted PageRank.

However, at some point many search engines started using link popularity in their algorithms. Simple link popularity was: the more outside pages that link to your page the more important your page was with that search engine.  So the webring HTML codes often provided a lot of links back to sites.  Particularly, the link to that webring homepage described above.  It shows the unintended consequences of using simple link popularity in your algorithms.

Google’s PageRank was a much more sophisticated form of link popularity and not as easy to manipulate.  But those webring HTML codes must have had some effect on PageRank, and Google is hostile to any unnatural linking.  I don’t think Google ever did anything about ring codes, but fanciful theories and rumors got passed around by the SEO community worried that ring codes might effect their Google ranking in a negative way.  This helped reduce the popularity of webrings.

Decline

I won’t get much into the decline of webrings because there are so many reasons.  The handwriting was on the wall when search engines, particularly Google, could find the exact page (not the site) you want with the minimum amount of clicks. Boom. The Web had evolved from being a hobby, a street fair, to being a place of commerce and purveyor of serious information – laden with advertising.

Future

Now comes the Indieweb movement.  Which considers Google to be, just another commercial information silo.  Something to be wary of depending upon too much.  I don’t think Indieweb bloggers and developers care about traffic from Google. They are not hostile, but they just don’t seem to care and are making their own paths of discovery in the Web.  In this context, webrings might have some new value.  Webrings work best to collect pages of obscure topics.  Webrings work well on content sites that are not commercial. Webrings can work well on blogs.

I applaud the Indiaweb’s willingness to try new old ways to navigate the Web.  But I have to say, nothing in my wildest imaginings, would have led me to think of bringing back webrings.  This ought to be interesting.

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