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Video Game Dream Team

A Worm in Bad Taste

Criminals just couldn't pass up the opportunity to cash in on a massive disaster. A "plea for aid to help the victims of last month's Asian tsunami disaster is actually a vehicle for spreading a computer virus, Web security firm Sophos said Monday. The worm appears with the subject line: 'Tsunami donation! Please help!' and invites recipients to open an attachment called "tsunami.exe" -- which, if opened, will forward the virus to other Internet users," Reuters reported. The worm is not widespread, Reuters noted. However, it's still a reminder to keep your virus-protection up-to-date on your PC and to avoid opening e-mails from unknown senders.
Reuters: Computer Worm Exploits Tsunami To Spread Virus

Yahoo's Broadband Dreams

Yahoo already has a lucrative partnership with SBC Communications for broadband-based services. Now the Internet services company has linked up with Verizon Communications. Yahoo will work with Verizon "to introduce a portal for its high-speed Internet service," the New York Times reported. "The venture comes as competition for broadband customers between telephone and cable companies continues to heat up. Yahoo is also looking for ways to attract visitors to its Web sites and reduce its reliance on advertising revenue. In the multiyear deal, Verizon's 3.3 million broadband customers will be able to use the co-branded portal at no additional charge. Yahoo will receive an undisclosed share of Verizon's broadband subscription fees, and Verizon will get a share of the advertising revenue generated by the portal," the paper said. Verizon, for its part, has a similar deal with Microsoft-run (and Yahoo rival) MSN, the article noted. The Financial Times picked up the announcement too.
The New York Times: Verizon and Yahoo Team Up To Offer Broadband Service (Registration required)

_____Filter Archive_____
For Techs, Are Happy Days Here Again? (washingtonpost.com, Jan 19, 2005)
A Failing Upgrade for the FBI (washingtonpost.com, Jan 14, 2005)
New Year's Hacks (washingtonpost.com, Jan 13, 2005)
Apple Goes Budget Friendly (washingtonpost.com, Jan 12, 2005)
Big Blue Opens the Patent Vault (washingtonpost.com, Jan 11, 2005)
More Past Issues

Is Google Considering a Fiber Diet Too?

Google has potential broadband ambitions too, CNET reported. "Is Google Inc. planning to build a global fiber-optic network from scratch? And, if so, why? The question has cropped up in light of a recent job posting on the search engine giant's Web site seeking experts in the field," the article said. "A Google spokesman declined to elaborate on the job posting. Still, it raises some tantalizing thoughts, including the long-shot chance that the Mountain View company is laying the groundwork to jump into the telecommunications business. The posting was reported by Light Reading, a Web site that tracks the optical networking industry." Read the Light Reading posting here.
CNET's News.com: Google Wants 'Dark Fiber'

Filter In Review: The Rise of Google

When Filter launched in Aug. 2002, the hangover from the dot-com crash was still lingering and the prospects for a blockbuster tech IPO seemed a long way off. Few believed a Silicon Valley Internet company called Google, hatched by two Stanford graduate students, was going to change tech's course so mightily.

Google was not a major topic in my columns in 2002 and 2003, but that all changed in 2004 in the run-up to the company's highly anticipated IPO in August -- a successful offering that proved that Wall Street and average investors alike were hungry (and brave enough) to gamble on technology stocks again.

The quirky company almost blew the IPO, thanks to a Playboy interview with Google's boy-wonder co-founders that nearly ran up against securities rules governing what companies can say in the period just before a stock offering. But in the end, the Securities and Exchange Commission decided to overlook the whole matter.

Google's auction-style IPO beat expectations, raising $1.67 billion and spurring a handful of other tech IPOs in the last months of 2004. Google's stock soared well above its initial $85 offering price, and the company is investing its IPO windfall in its continuing quest to dominate the search-engine space.

The IPO intensified an already simmering search-engine war with rivals Microsoft and Yahoo. In 2004, the three companies rolled out new search tools at a clip that would make Seabiscuit blush. Why should we care as consumers? The competition may lead to better search tools and better ways to deal with information overload in the Information Age.

But the growing power of search systems could create problems, such as the danger that consumer privacy concerns will be overshadowed by the race to pony up speedy and nifty search functions. My hope is that Google and its search technology brethren will honor the sacredness of information privacy, while still working towards advances in sifting for data.

For its part, when Google launched its desktop software, it made clear that using it does not make a computer's content accessible to Google or others. Let's hope it stays that way.

Google's entry into the e-mail space last spring with the test launch of its Gmail also raised privacy concerns, since the service matches ads with the content of incoming e-mails. I think there is reason to be cautious, as I noted last April when Gmail first appeared, but Google is upfront about its privacy policy. I don't mind the ads as long as it's just Google's machines -- not its employees -- who are reading my e-mails and attaching contextual ads. I also like how easy it is to organize e-mails and nix spam using Gmail.

Gmail, of course, was a brilliant move on two fronts: The invite-only policy for the service marketed to bloggers and other techie types (which is still in place, by the way) created a lot of free buzz. And the 1-gigabyte of free e-mail storage move also forced Yahoo and Microsoft to substantially increase the storage on their own e-mail services.

And that's how it is with Google. When it makes a move, everyone else has to follow. Take desktop search. The company was out of the box first with its desktop search tool, and Microsoft and Yahoo quickly followed (with Microsoft's effort getting lukewarm reviews). Smaller players like AskJeeves and HotBot have offered their own versions.

Though Google continues to set the pace, the company can't afford to rest on its laurels. Microsoft and Yahoo want the search-engine crown for themselves and there are signs that they're catching up. After all, Microsoft is the largest software company in the world and it has a history of winning out in the end, even if it's late to recognize what consumers want.

But I will keep my bet on Google for now. Just look at how the company is positioning itself with its recent acquisition of a digital mapping company and the launch of an ambitious digital library project last month.

See my first Filter review piece on blogs, which ran on the second page of last Friday's column.

Filter launched in Aug. 2002. The column is ending its run on Jan. 21. Send feedback, praise and darts alike to cindyDOTwebbATwashingtonpost.com. (Spammers still love to blast my e-mail address.)

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