30 September 2007

AdSense's new Allowed Sites feature is a step in the right direction.

In the past, it has been too easy for the unscrupulous to get their competitors or enemies banned from AdSense through such means as repeated clicking on ads. While I expect this problem to continue for some time, Google has introduced a new feature which will help AdSense publishers protect themselves. Publishers can now at their option specify which domains or subdomains they wish to allow ads to appear on; although the ads may be displayed on sites which are not on the allowed sites list, no impressions or clicks will be counted for those ads. This prevents two possible situations that could lead potentially to trouble: competitors or enemies will no longer be able to steal someone's AdSense code and plaster AdSense ads on sites which violate the AdSense terms of service, and people who mistakenly put in an incorrect code when placing ads on a site that violates the terms of service will also no longer get innocent people into trouble. Truthfully, neither situation happens all that often...but both do happen sometimes so it is good that Google has addressed this issue. Hopefully, getting incorrectly banned from AdSense will be the least of the worries facing web publishers in the future.

Is using the Allowed Sites feature a good idea for everyone? I've begun using it myself, but there is one issue all publishers should be aware of before they create their own Allowed Sites list. Archival sites which cache old versions of pages, such as archive.org and various search engines, will no longer generate revenue for you from those cached pages unless you also add those sites to the Allowed Sites list. You'll have to do that manually at the moment. I would hazard a guess that most people make next to nothing from impressions on cached versions of their sites, but those that do might be better off if they avoided the allowed sites feature for now.

28 September 2007

Google Presentations might change the world.

I have enjoyed using all three of the programs which now make up Google's online office suite, but Google's presentations program is in my opinion the most important of the trio. While the main selling points of Google Docs has always been that it allows documents to be viewed and edited online and that it makes long distance collaborations trivially simple, Google's presentations program adds an additional function: the ability to conduct simple "webinars" via a combination of a slide show and text chat. If you are the "Presenter" of a Google presentation, you can take charge of the presentation and control which slide all those who are currently viewing it will see. The chat functionality allows the presenter to discuss each slide and answer questions from the audience. This is something that could find eventually wide use in business, academia, and online communities -- it could be really big. At any rate, I think it's really cool that Google has made the webinar as almost trivial undertaking.

Up to this point, I think Google Docs has not been embraced by many who would like it if they tried it merely because they see no need to share their documents online. A business letter, a school essay, or a proposal have a very specific audience and each is usually subject to some sort of requirement as to how the finished product may be presented. Most of my college professors expected a printed hard copy of all my written class work, for instance, and I doubt I would have gotten away with emailing them a link to a Google Doc in most cases, so I had no particular reason to use Google Docs to produce my documents instead of my ordinary word processor. Presentations, on the other hand, are all about sharing information among a group -- rather than being viewed by one person such as a professor, they are usually meant to be viewed by at least a handful of people and often many more than that. Where the goals of the presentation can be met through online viewing, Google Docs offers a really powerful and really simple solution.

It will be very interesting to see how Google Docs develops in the future. I predict that the suite will grow more sophisticated and feature-rich over time; this by itself will boost its popularity among those who are loath to abandon the functionality of the office programs they currently use just for the online benefits offered by Google Docs. I'm especially curious if we will ever see new features added by Google which do not have equivalents in other office programs; that is, will we see an online office suite that can truly rival offline office suites? If so, that's probably far in the future, but I think it is definitely possible.