Category Archives: Google


A Federal Appeals Court Wants Google To Remove Anti-Islamic Video From Youtube

Google Inc, saying an elected bids court request guiding it to uproot a hostile to Islamic film from its Youtube movie imparting site might have “wrecking impacts” if permitted to stand, asked the court to put it on hold.

Not long ago, a board of the ninth U.s. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to reject Google’s declaration that the evacuation of the film “Purity of Muslims,” which started challenges over the Muslim world, added up to an earlier limitation of discourse that damaged the U.s. Constitution.

In a court documenting on Thursday, Google contended that the movie may as well remain receptive to general society while it asks that a bigger, 11-judge ninth Circuit board audit the issue. Google called this week’s request “phenomenal” and “clearing.”

(Photo Examiner)

Google Fiber May Be Coming To More U.S. Cities

Selena Larson February 19, 2014 Web

Google is in talks with 34 cities in nine metro areas across the United States to introduce Google Fiber, Internet that’s up to 100 times faster than broadband, the company announced today.

Selected cities will have to complete a “fiber-ready checklist” with information that can speed up planning and construction. In the meantime, Google Fiber will begin detailing costs and timelines for the new fiber-optic network.

Google Fiber is already rolling out in Kansas City (in both Kansas and Missouri); Provo, Utah; and Austin, Texas. Here’s the list of newly proposed cities:

  • Atlanta, including surrounding areas Avondale Estates, Brookhaven, College Park Decatur, East Point, Hapeville, Sandy Springs, and Smyrna
  • Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Salt Lake City, Utah
  • San Antonio, Texas
  • Phoenix, Arizona, including surrounding areas Scottsdale and Tempe
  • Portland, Oregon, including surrounding areas Beaverton, Hillsboro, Gresham, Lake Oswego, and Tigard
  • Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, including surrounding areas Carrborro, Cary, Chapel Hill, Durham, Garner, Morrisville, and Raleigh
  • San Jose, California, including surrounding areas Santa Clara, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, and Palo Alto

Lead image by Flickr user meneame comunicacions, CC 2.0

The Google Smartwatch Is Real, And It’s Coming Soon (But Maybe Not Too Soon)

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Google’s long-rumored smartwatch is real, and still “officially” expected to begin shipping in mid to late March. However, many members of the smartwatch team inside Google believe that date will either be pushed back to June, or the watch will end up shipping incomplete with a smaller feature set than originally intended. As it stands now, the timeline for the watch’s release is far from being set in stone.

The smartwatch prototypes are currently on lockdown in a Google building, under high security, and they’re not able to be taken out for fear that news will leak. (Oops.)

According to people familiar with the matter, an early prototype of the watch had a Pebble Steel-like metal band, square face, and a colorful digital display featuring a gradient background where colors gently fade from one to the next. It also seemed to have a more masculine vibe, also like the Pebble Steel.

But we’re hearing now that Google has settled on shipping a watch with a plastic band instead for the initial release. The band was one of many concepts the company was exploring. Like the previous prototype, the watch has a full-color display, with an LCD background that basically looks “like a cheap smartphone,” we’re told, which is capable of displaying a full-color image.

The whole idea behind the watch’s concept is that you shouldn’t have to take out your phone for various ambient alerts, like finding out who’s calling you or who just texted, for example.

The watch’s software supports notifications made possible through Bluetooth LE pairing with Android smartphones. It doesn’t sound like it’s yet capable of enabling a range of apps like Pebble’s watch does today. Third-party developers may be able to build for the watch at a later point following future updates.

Interactions with the watch are very gesture-driven. That is, swiping alerts and tapping to select.

Like others, including The Wall St. Journal, we’ve been hearing rumors of the forthcoming Google smartwatch for many months now. The WSJ had also previously reported that the watch will support “Google Now” alerts, which is a type of default notification on newer Android smartphones which includes personalized information like weather, traffic, events, meeting alerts, flight times, dinner reservations, sports scores, stock updates, reminders and more.

Development for the watch is being led by a team inside Google that includes designers from the Android team. That makes sense because the watch is being viewed as an accessory – an additive – to the Android phone, rather than being a standalone wearable device that others (including, say, iPhone users) might buy.

Interest in wearables has been heating up, with some analysts predicting the smart band segment alone will reach 8 million shipments in 2014, growing to more than 23 million units by 2015, and over 45 million by 2017. In addition to Pebble, top Android device maker Samsung also launched its own smartwatch, the Galaxy Gear. But Galaxy Gear reviews have been tepid at best, and the return rate on the watch is reportedly high. Apple is also rumored to be working on an “iWatch” of sorts, whose focus will be more so on health tracking, according to reports.

The problem with many of the current devices today include limited battery life and feature sets – things that could improve over time but may turn off a wider range of consumers in wearables’ earlier days.

Illustration by Bryce Durbin

Google acquires cyber security startup to help combat online advertising fraud

Google today announced that it has acquired, a London-based cyber security firm that combats online advertising fraud. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, although Google said it would be using the startup’s detection system to improve its display and video ad services.

“By including’s fraud fighting expertise in our products, we can scale our efforts to weed out bad actors and improve the entire digital ecosystem,” Neal Mohan, Google’s vice president for display advertising said.

Online ad fraud is a huge problem, whereby advertizers pay for exposure and clicks on the Web that are actually powered by bots, networks of hijacked devices and other non-human traffic. Therefore, advertizers are paying large sums of money for impressions that won’t result in new customers.

With, Google hopes to improve the accuracy of the information it gives advertizers, resulting in a “a clearer, cleaner picture of what campaigns and media are truly delivering strong results.” We’ll have to wait and see.

Blog Post (Via Recode)

Image Credit: PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images!wOC6s

WhatsApp reportedly turned down a $10B offer from Google

Even 10 Instagrams from Google wasn’t enough for WhatsApp.

At least not according to a report from Fortune, which cites two sources who claim Google offered the mobile messaging company $10 billion for an acquisition, only to be turned down.

WhatsApp, of course, ended up going to Facebook for a deal worth around $19 billion (including restricted stock). Google reportedly didn’t offer WhatsApp a board seat — whereas Facebook gave up a seat to WhatsApp cofounder Jan Koum.

When Facebook plunked down $1 billion for Instagram in 2012, it completely shifted the landscape for app acquisitions. That purchase ended up being what every subsequent acquisition was measured by (don’t forget Facebook also offered $3 billion for Snapchat, which was actually turned down).

By offering $10 billion, Google showed that it wasn’t afraid to outspend Facebook’s previously mammoth (and potentially overvalued) purchases. But Google likely couldn’t have guessed that Facebook would offer almost twice as much.

Google, Censorship, and Salesmanship: The Epic Smackdown of RapGenius

Why no one messes with Big G, and why maybe they should

The startup RapGenius began in 2009 as a website for rap lyrics. By late 2013, it was already well-known in the tech set because its founders have done many ridiculous things — such as telling Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to suck dick and then saying they’ll be bigger than Facebook.

But for RapGenius, great ridiculousness comes with great savviness. The Yale-educated founders earned a heritage with top startup accelerator Y-Combinator, plus $15 million from top venture capitalists Andreessen Horowitz. They seemed untouchable.

Then, just in time for Christmas 2013, RapGenius got caught flagrantly violating Google’s rules in order to score higher slots in Google searches. So Google made an example of them. For days, we saw neither hide nor hair of RapGenius on our favorite snow-white search page. Even if you Googled the exact name of the company, “Rap Genius,” their site didn’t come up until you clicked five pages into the search results. As a result, RapGenius traffic dropped off a cliff — plunging from over a million visitors per day to about 200,000.

As a result, RapGenius traffic dropped off a cliff — plunging from over a million visitors per day to about 200,000.

After RapGenius apologized publicly and worked overtime on Christmas to toe the line, Google forgave them and gave most of the traffic back (though not all). “To Google and our fans: we’re sorry for being such morons,” RapGenius literally said.

Behold this graph of RapGenius visitors:

RapGenius traffic, measured by Quantcast

It’s a dramatic story. It’s also not the first example of Google laying the smackdown on what Google defines as shady marketing. Over the years, they’ve penalized companies as diverse as BMW and J.C. Penney. In fact, several of Google’s own departments have been caught and punished for violating Google’s rules. There’s also no shortage of stories of smaller companies wiped out entirely by Google search penalties.

But how does Google define “shady marketing”? Isn’t there some tension between Google’s desire for clean search results free of marketers’ manipulations and the fact that Google sells ads on their search results?

More importantly, if Google’s algorithms can eviscerate high-profile companies and destroy small ones, what can they do to individual voices?

If Google is the primary organizer of information on the Internet, if they effectively control what most people see, then how quickly does their control tip over into censorship? And even if we trust Google itself to be even-handed in its information distribution, what makes us so sure that Googlers are the only ones who control the sacred algorithm?

Google’s Secret Sauce

The #1 position in any given Google search tends to get fully one-third of the traffic for that search. As for later pages of Google search results, forget it — about 95% of traffic drops off between Page 1 and Page 2.

Top slots in Google searches are so valuable that there’s a lucrative marketing specialty, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), devoted to manipulating those rankings. Some optimizers use annoying tricks (like spam or link-trading, which is what RapGenius did); other optimizers are more careful and play the game by Google’s rules. Google’s search algorithms are a closely guarded secret because the company is locked in an ongoing arms race against sneaky optimizers.

Secret sauce image by Steve Snodgrass on Flickr, under Creative Commons

The general leading Google’s war effort is named Matt Cutts. He comes across as an awesomely skilled hunter, patiently stalking the wild SEO across the Internet savannah. In an interview with Wired, Cutts told the magazine that he dreams of an airtight search algorithm that would be impossible for spammers to manipulate, which could thus be publicly posted without fear. Cutts has also said that Google’s goal is to “break the spirits” of spammy search engine optimizers.

Cutts has also said that Google’s goal is to “break the spirits” of spammy search engine optimizers.

On the one hand, it’s awesome that Google puts so much effort into making its search rankings useful. I want to be really clear about this: I like and trust Google and Googlers. I’ve interviewed at the company and I have many friends there (hi folks). If someone put a gun to my head and demanded that I choose one corporation to totally control my life, then I would choose Google.

Still, no matter how much I like Google, I can’t help feeling unsettled by how much power they have over the information I find — and the information I produce! Although I understand the reasons for the secrecy around Google’s search algorithm, it is not comforting to see all that power locked in a black box.

Censorship Potential

In a 2011 antitrust hearing with the U.S. government, Google made the case that people could just go use another search engine. Indeed, in the wake of the 2013 NSA scandal, some people did defect to other search engines — but the vast majority didn’t. And after seeing RapGenius get slammed to the mat, I’m not reassured by the existence of Google’s “competition.”

It’s not just specific websites that Google can affect so strongly. Google has been developing the ability to prioritize web content by author. Which implies that Google is developing the ability to de-prioritize web content by author, too.

We’ve already seen government Internet manipulations both clumsy (like the State Department’s blatant purchase of Facebook fans) and clever (like the military deployment of fake social media identities to influence online discourse). Given what we learned about the NSA and Google during 2013, we might think about the government’s access to Google’s search algorithm.

To its credit, Google provides extensive transparency reports, which show us some explicit censorship by various governments that’s happening right now. But many of those interventions are clumsy and blatant. There’s any number of subtler possibilities. In general, how far can search results be bent before we label algorithmic re-organizations as “censorship?” — whether by corporate interests, or other ones?

In general, how far can search results be bent before we label algorithmic re-organizations as “censorship?” — whether by corporate interests, or other ones?

How quickly will we even notice such changes, if they happen to sites or authors that aren’t famous? What if the changes are on a far smaller scale than what happened to RapGenius? After all, moving certain search results from Page 1 to Page 2 will still have an enormous effect. A result doesn’t have to get pushed very far to be effectively buried.

Canaries In The Information Coal Mine

As I mentioned above, there are some Search Engine Optimizers who use annoying tricks, yet there are many who don’t. In fact, many SEOs sound… respectful of Google!

Will Critchlow, the founder of digital marketing agency Distilled, puts it this way: “We fundamentally believe that the work Distilled does (and that of many of our peers) is helpful to the Internet at large and not at all in conflict with Google’s mission. When working on search visibility for our clients, we are aiming to help them have great, accessible websites that cover topics the market wants. This is totally different from the attitude of seeking short term exploits that work until Google shuts them down.” (Full disclosure: Over the summer, I wrote a research report for Distilled.)

Jesse Avshalamov, a 9-year veteran of the SEO trenches who currently runs growth at Teespring, told me: “Google’s got a team of brilliant PhDs, dedicated to finding abuses of their algorithm and systematically wiping them them out. You may be able to outmaneuver them for a while, but eventually they will outsmart you, and then you’re back to square one, or worse. If you’re building a brand that’s meant to last, the long-term game will be played by their rules.”

Avshalamov added: “There’s a cultural divide that runs within SEO — the ‘do whatever you have to’ and the ‘keep it clean,’ which are equally vocal, though the former certainly make for more sensational news.”

Indeed, many marketers seem remarkably non-bitter, given that they stress constantly about Google’s whims while Google makes a fortune selling its own ads right on top of search results. Google has also moved more and more towards selling things itself — which makes it especially unsettling for marketers to talk about “playing by Google’s rules.”

Of course, it’s understandable that individual marketers and agencies don’t want to take on Big G. But what about government market regulators? The U.S. Federal Trade Commission recently decided not to file charges against Google, yet the European Commission has been more aggressive. They’ve pursued complaints from services who say they have a hard time competing with similar services owned by Google, given that Google can prioritize its own products at the very moment that the vast majority of consumers are looking to buy.

Canary image by Tanakawho on Flickr, under Creative Commons

One reason I’m interested in marketing is that, in a way, it’s the anti-censorship. Great activists, community organizers, and journalists often have a knack for audience-building that any good marketer would recognize. Marketing can be a canary in the information coal mine, helping us detect where knowledge flows freely and where it’s being stifled. I’m curious to see how marketing debacles like what happened to RapGenius will help us understand information’s movement.

Google has long claimed that there are strong internal walls between its salespeople and its search engineers, and I believe their intentions are good. I also think that Google’s anti-spam rules are legit, and I’m glad they exist. But although I like Google personally, I’m not convinced that regulators should. After all, it’s regulators’ job to make charismatic corporations stay classy, no matter how popular those corporations get.

So, <3 to Google, but I’m feeling unnerved that American regulators have let up the pressure. The more assurances and transparencies mega-powerful Internet corporations have to give the general public, the better.

The more assurances and transparencies mega-powerful Internet corporations have to give the general public, the better.

And after all, what sort of example does this set for the next Internet giant that gains Google’s level of control within our attention economy? For instance, assuming we trust Google, do we also trust Facebook?

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Success on Google Play: Not Just a Matter of Development – Part 1

How multi-tasking can help indie Android Developers succeed on Google Play

A lot of indie mobile developers think that the fact they’re able to develop an app will be the key to an undisputed success on mobile App Stores.

Of course, one of the most important things to possess as mobile developer is fluency with the programming language. Just like you can’t write a novel without knowing the alphabet or the grammar, having a strong knowledge of the system and its APIs will help you buid apps faster and better.

Multi-tasking is the key for success on App Stores

However, from my experience as an Android Developer, success on Mobile App Stores, and on Google Play in particular, is all about multi-tasking.

I’m not referring to “multi-tasking” as a synonym of “doing multiple things simultaneously”, what I mean is “being able to do multiple things”. The success of a mobile app is driven by a very large number of factors, so an indie developer needs to be aware that his application needs to fulfill multiple requirements.

In my opinion, the most important thing to keep in mind is that apps will be available to millions. So, the dev needs to be conscious of the common denominator between users, and in particular of the user base of his app (the people that, after a while after installing it, keep using the app).

This needs to start even before the app is developed; indie developers need to scratch the surface of mobile App Stores, and try to understand what’s going on, what is trending. There are plenty of web services that monitor App Stores on a daily basis, returning statistics on app installs and comments (for example, for Android and Google Play there’s AppBrain, or the App Stats app). Statistics are some of developers best friends. Use them.

UI of the App is really important

The app needs to be clear and clean. Users should understand how to use it without too much effort, and don’t want to feel dumb using your app. The best way to accomplish this task is follow the development guidelines of the system you’re working on; this way the app will have a look & feel users are already used to work with, and you don’t have to instruct them on how to use most common features.

Graphical assets are important. Really important. You don’t have to be a Photoshop hero, but you need to know the basics.

A great app icon is the best Graphical asset to provide

A great app icon will be what lures users to your app on the App Stores, so don’t understimate it. If your icon looks bad, or not interesting, or unprofessional, users will not click on it: they just won’t. So be careful and provide the best icon you can come out with.

Screenshots are a great tool to make a good first impact on people. Keep in mind that an app (in particular Android apps) are meant to work on multiple devices, with substantially different screen sizes. So, provide the most meaninful screenshots to show off your app features, but for multiple screen sizes (from 3” to 10” displays).

There are literally hundeds of phones and tablets form factors

This brings up one of the most important tool to develop and test a great app: test devices. A good developer needs to provide a decent number of app tests in order to claim to have developed a good app. The best way to accomplish that is to phisically run the app on multiple devices. As a developer, I own more than 15 Android devices, all with different form factors and a bunch with older versions of Android. This really helps testing out the features of apps and how they performs on older devices. Emulators are a resource too (if you’re an Android dev, check out Genymotion), but they definitely can’t fully replace how a real device perform.

Testing your app on multiple devices will really help you with one of the most important things you have to consider when dealing with mobile app stores: your customers’ ratings.

Customer Support really helps you improve your app ratings

Customer support is one of the best way to drive traffic and users to your app. Users are always very clear about what they expect from your app. Usually, customers ratings and comments can be split in some macro-categories:

  1. Enthusiasts (“5-star” ratings): users that are really happy with your app and give it an amazingly high rating on the App Store . A good way to interact with this users is answer with gratitude to their good comments and ratings, and ask how can you furtherly improve your app. They already showed that they love it, so usually they’ll be happy to cooperate, and also will feel “considered” by the dev, which creates a good virtuous circle. If you’ve done a very good job with your app, “5 star ratings” will rappresent the majority of your app ratings.
  2. Happy Users (“4-star” ratings): if you’ve done a decent job with your app, you’ll have plenty of 4-star ratings. These users appreciate your app, but not enough to give it a top-notch rating, so here’s where you have to be careful. These people are “ready” to turn into Enthusiasts, so keep in mind that you have to carefully consider their advices/requests, because they are usually also ready to change their minds and abandone your app if you don’t improve it. 4-star rating customers often leave accurate comments on the reason they appreciate yor app and what it need to go the extra mile to gain that “fifth star”. Take care of what they suggest!
  3. “Meh” users (“2-3 stars” ratings): usually, people who have found serious issues in your app. It can be everything: missing feature, performance glitches, force close, ugly graphical assets… Your app is not doing what they supposed it to be doing. So you, as developer, did something wrong, somewhere. Be aware: since 3-stars are in the middle of possible ratings, some of 3-stars ratings are given by people who consider 3 stars an average good rating (like in european hotels)!! So, pay attention to differentiate between users who are not happy with your app and customers who are giving you what they think is a good rating. A good approach is to get in touch with them in order to understand better their rating.
  4. Unhappy users (“1 star” ratings): they have found major issues in your app. These is the category you have to watch more carefully, because it will be the litmus test of your app: if you see a bunch of 1-star ratings showing up all of a sudden, it means you’ve done something really wrong with your app or latest app update. This is also a customer category where interaction is a panacea: get in touch with these users, and try to understand the issues they’re experiencing. You’re going to get a lot of 1-star ratings, no matter what. Be careful to separate unshappy users from…
  5. Haters (“1-star” rating with really bad comments): Haters gonna hate. You’ll always get nonsensical comments, users shouting against your app claiming it has broken their devices, people that say they can’t download your app (if so, how can you rate it?!?) and so on. Deal with it, there’s nothing you can do/say to make this people remove or change their comment. Fortunately, it’s just a small circle of users, and they show up more often on free apps than on paid apps. If you think their comments are really impacting your overall app rating and downloads, there’s always a handy “Report this comment” button.

In general, keep in mind that you have to monitor your customers feedback in order to have a good impact on mobile app stores, in particular on Google Play. Interact with your customers, don’t be shy and ask them what they think of your app. Try not to be oversensitive on your app and be open to new possibilites, sometimes your users will come up with ideas that are definitely better than yours: embrace them.

Finally we can say that good knowledge of the system, practice in creating good and consistent graphical assets, understanding of development guidelines, app testing and customer care are some of the fundamental skills needed by a good indie developer.

That’s why, in my opinion, being able to perform multi-tasking is what allows a developer to really start growing in mobile app stores. All the described skills need practice to be accomplished in the right way, so take your time, don’t be scared, don’t get mad, focus and try.

After all, we’re always learning, aren’t we?

In the next episode we will discuss other peculiarities that make an app impactful: What are the best development tools? How can I measure the impact of an app over time? How can I get my app under the proper spotlight? And so on! If you have suggestions or comments, please share them!

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Google Play Music just launched a new visualization mode for Chromecast

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Here’s something cheesy but fun for all you Chromecast users out there: Google Play Music now lets you stream video of a fireplace to your TV while you cast your music. “Just in time for Valentine’s Day, we’ve got the perfect way for you to set the mood,” reads  a Google+ post that also explains how to enable the visualization. A Google spokesperson didn’t say whether Google is working on any other visualizations, but told me that this one was based on a request a user made on Reddit — for Christmas. Better late than never, I guess?

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Google posts large privacy violation notice on French homepage

Feb. 7, 2014 – 3:42 PM PST


Screen Shot Google privacy fine
Summary:Google lost an emergency appeal, meaning it is posting a notice in the middle of its French homepage for a period of 48 hours that tells users it violated their privacy.

A French court on Friday refused Google’s last-minute plea to suspend an order imposed by a privacy watchdog, meaning the search giant has to post a notice on its homepage for a period of 48 hours informing users that the company was fined €150,000 ($204,000) for violating data collection laws. Google complied with the order on as of Saturday morning, as seen below:

Screen Shot Google privacy fine

The Friday court decision came in response to Google’s emergency appeal this week to the Conseil d’Etat, France’s highest appeals court for administrative law. The company argued that the penalty — which specified that the notice had to be printed in 13-point Arial font and appear in the center the screen below the search box — was too severe and that Google’s reputation would be irreparably damaged.

In a decision and related press release issued on Friday, the French Court explained that Google had failed to show the order would cause permanent damage to its financial interests or its reputation. It added that Google had failed to show that that the privacy agency’s order was illegal, or that the public interest would be harmed by going forward with the order.

As a result, Google had to post the full paragraph set out in the agency’s original order, which informs consumers about the fine and requires a link to the decision on the privacy agency’s website.

Google can continue to appeal the underlying fine, which was imposed for the company’s failure to respect data protection and consent rules, but could not avoid the order to post the notice on within seven days.

The €150,000 fine, which is the maximum the agency could impose, is meaningless to a company of Google’s size, but the search giant appears anxious to prevent governments telling it what to post on its homepage. Google did not immediately return an after-hours request for comment, but the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week that the company told the court that it always “maintained that [homepage] page in a virgin state.”

This is not the first time that a European court has required an American company to post a notice on its homepage; last year, a judge ordered Apple to post a notice on its website that Samsung did not violate a design patent for its iPad. And, as MarketingLand notes, the Belgians imposed an even more draconian order on Google in 2006.

Here are the relevant parts of today’s order. I’m posting the original French with a Google Translate version below.

Here’s a portion of today’s ruling summarizing the contents of the original order:

[The agency] a décidé de prononcer à l’encontre de cette société une sanction pécuniaire de 150 000 euros, de rendre cette décision publique sur le site de la CNIL et d’ordonner à la société de publier à sa charge, sur son site internet, pendant une durée de 48 heures consécutives, le septième jour suivant la notification de sa décision, selon des modalités définies par celle-ci, le texte du communiqué suivant : « la formation restreinte de la Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés a condamné la société Google à 150 000 euros d’amende pour manquements aux règles de protection des données personnelles consacrées par la loi « informatique et libertés ».

[the agency] decided to vote against this company a fine of 150,000 euros, to make this decision public on the website of the CNIL and order the company to publish its charge on its website . fr, for a period of 48 consecutive hours, the seventh day following the notification of the decision, according to procedures laid down by the latter, the text of the following statement: “the limited formation of the National Commission on Informatics and freedoms condemned the Google company 150,000 euros fine for breaches of data protection enshrined in the “Informatique et Libertés” law

Here’s the part where the court says the notice won’t permanently harm Google’s reputation or the public interest:

par ailleurs, que la société ne saurait soutenir et n’allègue d’ailleurs pas qu’une atteinte grave et immédiate pourrait être portée, par la sanction dont la suspension est demandée, à la poursuite même de son activité ou à ses intérêts financiers et patrimoniaux ou encore à un intérêt public

Moreover, the company can not and will not support also alleges a serious and immediate harm could be increased by the sanction which the suspension is requested, the same pursuit of its business or its financial interests and property or in the public interest

This story was updated at 10:45ET on Saturday to reflect that Google is complying with the order.

Why have the Google Buses invaded San Francisco?

Nothing is ever as simple as it looks.

There is no easy answer to this question, but protests in front of buses are certainly not going to solve the problem because it’s a problem that goes beyond the boundaries of the City of San Francisco. While protests may have encouraged the City to work faster towards implementing (very minimal) fees, something that has been in the works since at least last year, I question why no restrictions on vehicle size for areas where double-decker coaches don’t safely fit have not been implemented. State regulations prohibit charging large fees on the shuttle operators, so anything higher than a regulatory program that recoups its own costs is probably out of the question without a citywide vote or additional study. The buses are not really THE problem, however- they are a symptom of much larger local and state government dysfunction, which is where peoples’ anger should really be directed.

Google, for one, would love to build housing near its campus in Mountain View. They have tried to get it permitted and it has been rejected, while at the same time the city has approved additional office space. In fact, the city of Mountain View expressly forbade housing in its citywide general plan for the area around the Bayshore Campus. This would have put large numbers of Google employees walking distance from work, while also providing a walkable neighborhood near a light rail station. Google has also started investing in affordable housing, including one project in Mountain View, but unfortunately it’s only 51 units. The truth is that suburban communities don’t want to build more housing, and Prop 13 gives existing owners little reason to care about increasing housing prices. In fact, it’s in homeowners best interest to keep housing prices high.

Additionally, many communities set limits for vehicular traffic that employers need to comply with as part of transportation management plans. Aside from being a recruiting tool, company shuttles are the primary way of complying with these regulations. Why not subsidize existing transit? For most people public transit to the peninsula is incredibly time-consuming, and it also lacks the capacity to take that many additional riders. Caltrain will be upgrading in the coming years with high speed rail funds, but that is still a ways off. Most trains are already at capacity (standing room only) at rush hour. There is simply not room for thousands more people right now, and most of the tech campuses are not close enough to Caltrain for people to walk without providing buses for the final leg anyway. Not to mention the time it takes to get to Caltrain within San Francisco on Muni, which is also straining under current ridership levels.

If employees want to live here, why did all the big tech companies not lease offices in San Francisco in the first place? Aside from the fact that a lot of their employees still live on the peninsula or in the South Bay, there is not enough office space in San Francisco to accommodate them. San Francisco currently has the lowest office vacancy rate in the United States and it doesn’t have room for 15,000 Google employees to relocate north. Office space construction was severely limited in the 1980s over concerns of Manhattanization, and this has only recently changed as development has been permitted south of Market Street downtown.

I’m not sure we’d be that much better off from a housing perspective if Facebook, Google and Apple were all located in downtown San Francisco, though it would remove the need for shuttle buses (Google’s downtown San Francisco office on the Embarcadero is already very popular with Google employees, most of whom bike or take transit to work). As we have seen, there has been a huge amount of anger levied at in-town tech companies setting up in the Mid-Market area (although a lot of that anger has been directed at an arguably unnecessary tax break that will cost the city millions). There is no easy solution to these problems, but a total lack of coordination between municipalities with different priorities is the crux of the problem. Maybe the protests should move to suburban communities that don’t want to allow rental housing construction?

an earlier version of this piece was originally posted 12/20/2013 on

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