Google’s bitcoin war is dumbing down

As you are probably aware, Google has a fraught relationship with Bitcoin (BTC) in particular, and cryptocurrencies in general. It’s a problem, because YouTube, which Google owns, is awash with videos about digital assets. What we have seen is that whenever possible, Google has tried to raise barricades against the oncoming tide of crypto information, in all its forms, including apps and websites, which has caused crypto fans to accuse the media giant of censorship.

We have only just begun 2020, and already Google has lashed out by removing Bitcoin Blast, a BTC rewards game from the Google Play store, on the gorunds that it uses “deceptive practices.” According to Billy Bambrough at Forbes, Bitcoin Blast was available on the Apple app store on 24th January, but was removed a week later. Apple said that it violated certain of its app policies, but said it could come back if it “can be brought up to code.”

Daniel Rice, cofounder and chief technology officer at Bling, the make of Bitcoin Blast, said in a post, “We were not removed for being involved with cryptocurrency,” but added, “it’s also possible that Bitcoin Blast will never return to an Apple platform.”

The irony is that Bitcoin Blast’s users rather liked the puzzle game that rewards users with bitcoin-redeemable loyalty points and boasts a 4.5 rating from some 20,000 ratings and 13,000 reviews. They complained to Google about the sudden removal of their entertainment. And this had a positive effect. Although, Bling, did have to make a public plea for support, and it was only after this happened that Google reversed its decision.

It isn’t the first time that Google has waded reversed a decision regarding a crypto-related app or site. It tried to ban most of the bitcoin-related content creators from YouTube, only to face a backlash from users that forced a change of heart.

Not long after this, Google suspended the popular MetaMask crypto wallet and mobile browser app backed by Ethereum incubator ConsenSys from the Play Store, only to eventually reinstate it.

This behaviour is rather odd, and it is no wonder that companies such as Bling are questioning what their future relationship they might have with Google, if any at all. Bling’s CEO, Amy Wan wrote, “Google’s suspension cited their ‘deceptive behavior’ policy … but did not state exactly what behavior Google thought was deceptive,” and she advices other businesses to avoid putting all their products on a Google platform. Furthermore, she said that Google couldn’t answer the question regarding what was “deceptive” about the Bitcoin Blast app.

As Billy Bambrough says, Google’s “twitchy trigger finger and the speed at which the ban hammer falls is, understandably, making people nervous.”

Certainly, it needs to rethink its battle strategy, because at the moment, it looks like every action is a simplistic knee-jerk reaction, rather than a well-considered approach based on evidence.

Google Just ‘Killed’ Major Bitcoin News Site CCN In A ‘Crypto Crackdown’

At the beginning of this week, many CCN readers were hugely disappointed, and probably annoyed as well, to find press reports that CCN was closing down thanks to Google.

The problem is a thing called Google’s June 2019 Core Update that rolled out on 3rd June. CCN reported a drop in mobile traffic volume of 71% overnight, following the launch of this Google tool. It isn’t the only crypto-related news site that has seen a drop-off in figures: Coindesk’s traffic dropped by 34.6% according to Sistrix, a data company that tracks website visibility on Google, and Cointelegraph by 21%.

Billy Bambrough at Forbes writes, “The sudden drop in traffic to bitcoin and cryptocurrency websites has caused editors to question whether this was an intentional attempt to undermine their coverage of the cryptocurrency sector.”

But, it wasn’t just the crypto-related sites that have been hit hard by the Google Core Update; mainstream news outlets are also seeing a distressing downturn.

CCN founder Jonas Borchgrevink wrote just after the first announcement of CCN’s closure, “While all major crypto focused sites have taken a hit by Google’s June 2019 Core Update, other sites that are not affiliated with cryptocurrencies have experienced a startlingly similar impact.” And he called on journalists and editors to resist Google’s attempts to “control the world’s news consumption” and a future “Googlémocracy.”

“We have tried to find out why our stories are no longer visible on Google by asking for guidance in Google’s Webmasters Forum. While we appreciate the help of the experts from the Google Forum, their theories for why Google has decided to basically ‘shut down’ CCN does not appear to be entirely accurate. Why would simple fixes be the cause of the immense Google-listing drop, when other similar sites are experiencing the same blowback,” Borchgrevink asked.

CCN rises from the dead

If you go to the CCN website today you’ll see it is still posting current stories. I expected to get some 4040 error, or other notice indicating the site was down So I found the post by Jonas Borchgrevink explaining just how CCN appears to have come back from the dead. He addresses the readers to thank them for their support and then says, “While we’ve been working in the dark, trying to get to the bottom of our massive visibility drop on Google, a friendly helper in Google’s forum mentioned that ‘CryptoCoinsNews.com’ — our previous domain- is reappearing in Google searches.” He goes on to say, “That was a massive surprise for us as I personally requested a domain name change in 2017 from CryptoCoinsNews.com to CCN.com.”

And he concludes by saying, “Whether or not the Google June 2019 Core Update is to blame, we are fixing it. We’re receiving help from multiple SEO teams to understand what has transpired.

There’s still a good chance that this won’t correct our visibility on Google overnight, but I’m hopeful we are on the right path to figuring it out.”

So, there you have it: CCN died, but is dead no more!

Should you give up your Huawei smartphone?

Hot on the heels of the US government putting Huawei on a blacklist, Google stepped in and announced it is blocking Huawei’s access to Android updates for apps and security features.

This is a blow to the Chinese smartphone and telecoms tech manufacturer, and creates a problem for Huawei phone owners.

Google is following the government policy prohibiting US firms to do business with Huawei. As a result Google has been forced to restrict the company’s access to the Google Play Store, which means that in the future users won’t be able to gain access to popular titles, nor to speedy security updates to the Android OS. This means Huawei will no longer be able to offer access to crucial Google apps, and will be severely limited in how quickly it can give users access to the latest versions of Android.

If you’re a Huawei phone owner you must be wondering what to do next. Well, there is some good news. According to TechRadar the “US Commerce Department has temporarily lifted the ban on American businesses working with Huawei — allowing software updates to continue on Huawei phones.”

This temporary licence rolls back the US government’s restrictions and will allow Google to continue working with Huawei, allowing the Chinese brand to keep using Android in the same manner as before until 19th August.

This is good news for Huawei, because it gives it more time to “prepare for the launch of its next handsets and develop the Android Q update for its current smartphones,” TechRadar reports.

However, whilst Huawei has given the impression that it is relatively unperturbed by the US government and Google’s actions, it still leaves it in a vulnerable position in the marketplace without full access to the Android operating system.

But it also gives Huawei more time to argue the case for not being on the US government’s blacklist and prove that it is not a danger to national security. The USA is not the only country that believes Huawei’s products may play a role in Chinese espionage, particularly with regard to building 5G systems. Japan, Australia and New Zealand have also banned the use of Huawei products for 5G, and others may follow.

But while the debate continues, Huawei smartphone owners may need to consider whether to continue using its phones, or change to another company. Interestingly, on the day the news about Google and Huawei was published, I noticed Apple was running a new ad campaign. Coincidence? It seems unlikely.

Is Google making the blockchain searchable?

I came across an interesting article on Forbes the other day by Michael del Castillo. He tells a story about data scientist Allen Day, a former Google employee, who while looking at some of the tools he developed there, saw something puzzling. What he saw was “a mysterious concerted usage of artificial intelligence on the blockchain for Ethereum.”

Day was able to look into its blockchain and see a “whole bunch” of “autonomous agents” moving funds around “in an automated fashion.” Although Day has no idea who created the AI, he suspects “they could be the agents of cryptocurrency exchanges trading among themselves in order to artificially inflate ether’s price.”

Day also remarked that he didn’t believe this was the work of a single exchange, but is rather a group effort. Part of Day’s job is anticipating demand for a product before it even exists, and in the light of what he has seen, he believes that making the blockchain more accessible is the next big thing.

Let’s not forget that Google made the Internet more usable, bringing it billions in revenue, and if Day is correct in his predictions it could have another major pay day by making the blockchain searchable. Del Castillo says if it does, “the world will know whether blockchain’s real usage is living up to its hype.”

Day has already been working on this with a team of open-source developers, who have been loading data for bitcoin and ethereum blockchains into Google’s big data analytics platform called BigQuery. And, with the help of lead developer Evgeny Medvedev, he created a suite of sophisticated software to search the data.

Day is hoping that his project, known as Blockchain ETL (extract, transform, load) will bring Google’s revenues from cloud computing services up to the level of Amazon and Microsoft. Google is some way behind both of them, but it will struggle to match Amazon’s revenues of $27 billion from cloud services, because Amazon has been in the blockchain game since 2018 with a suite of tools for building and managing distributed ledgers. And Microsoft got into the space in 2015, when it released tools for ethereum’s blockchain. These two companies are focused on making it easier to build blockchain apps, whereas Day wants to reveal how blockchains are actually being used, and by whom.

Day has been demonstrating how his Blockchain ETL could function by examining the hard fork that created bitcoin cash (BCH) from bitcoin. “I’m very interested to quantify what’s happening so that we can see where the legitimate use cases are for blockchain,” Day says. “Then we can move to the next use case and develop out what these technologies are really appropriate for.”

Day is now expanding beyond bitcoin and ethereum. Litecoin, zcash, dash, bitcoin cash, ethereum classic and dogecoin are being added to BigQuery.

It seems Google is waking up to blockchain and is now powering ahead by filing numerous patents related to the blockchain. The company is also encouraging its developers to build apps on the ethereum blockchain, and GV, Google’s investment division has made some investments in crypto-related startups.