Earlier this month, Google rolled out a new display format for its desktop search result listings, which aimed to bring them more into line with mobile search display, and added prominent favicons and URL listings to each result.
But the change has seen significant criticism, with some suggesting that the format makes it much harder for users to distinguish between paid ads and actual, earned results.
I would argue there is now no visual distinction between ads and results. There is still, technically, *labelling*, but it’s hard to escape the conclusion that it is supposed to be difficult to spot at a glance where the adverts end. pic.twitter.com/qjUmisbLER
— hern (@alexhern) January 23, 2020
The criticism, when viewing examples like the above, seems valid, and research has already suggested that the updated desktop format is leading to more people clicking on ads, supporting this theory.
As reported by Digiday, various ad tech providers have noted changes in desktop ad click-through rates following the update, with CTRs for search ads increasing between 4% and 10.5%. That’s clearly beneficial for Google’s ad business, but it could also diminish trust in the company’s core search product – if people can no longer tell what’s a reputable business, as opposed to one with the deepest pockets, questions around search, and Google’s motivations, could eventually have adverse consequences for the company.
And now, Google has taken note, announcing on Twitter that it will review its updated format.
As per Google:
“Last week we updated the look of Search on desktop to mirror what’s been on mobile for months. We’ve heard your feedback about the update. We always want to make Search better, so we’re going to experiment with new placements for favicons. Our experimenting will begin today. Over the coming weeks, while we test, some might not see favicons while some might see them in different placements as we look to bring a modern look to desktop.”
Here’s our full statement on why we’re going to experiment further. Our early tests of the design for desktop were positive. But we appreciate the feedback, the trust people place in Google, and we’re dedicating to improving the experience. pic.twitter.com/gy9PwcLqHj
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) January 24, 2020
The two statements here seem almost contradictory – on one hand, Google acknowledges the noted, and significant, concerns that have been raised, while on the other, it says that early feedback has been positive.
Whether it will lead to Google rolling back the change, we’ll have to wait and see, but definitely there’s a case to be made that Google is intentionally diluting the separation between paid and organic results over time, and confusing users in the process.
In fact, this is only the latest in a long history of Google’s gradual merging of the two elements. Illustrating this, the team from Search Engine Land recently updated their infographic, which illustrates the changes over time.
When you see it laid out like this, it’s difficult to argue against the idea that Google is deliberately seeking to reduce the distinction between the two elements. Which, for Google’s ad business, makes sense, but as noted, if consumers lose trust in the transparency of Google’s results, that could lead to further consequences, and potentially, reduced usage.
But then again, it probably won’t. As you can see here, as Google has made similar changes over time, it hasn’t lost out in terms of search traffic, and while this latest change seems more significant, if Google sticks to its guns, it will likely be fine. But then, of course, there could be further regulatory questions around such, and Google could come under scrutiny over misleading results. There are clear, and pressing, reasons why Google would want to revise its approach, but whether that results in a roll-back remains to be seen.
For businesses, if Google does remove favicons from desktop search, that somewhat lessens the emphasis on them – but still, if you don’t have a favicon attached to your website, it’s worth updating your info.
You can read more about how to add a favicon to your web identity here.
LastPass Suffers Second Major Data Breach in Four Months | – Spiceworks News and Insights
On Wednesday, LastPass confirmed it was breached, a fallout of the August 2022 incident wherein portions of source code and some proprietary LastPass technical information were compromised. The recent breach came to light after the company noticed unusual activity in a third-party cloud storage service it shares with GoTo, its parent company.
In a blog post, LastPass CEO Karim Toubba said the still unknown threat actors accessed “certain elements” of the password manager’s customer information. Toubba didn’t talk about the type of information that was compromised but assured that the passwords of more than 33 million company users and more than 100,000 business accounts remain unaffected.
The August 2022 breach, wherein the hackers had access to LastPass accounts for four days, compromised the source code and some proprietary technical information. What the threat actors obtained in the previously compromised data to breach LastPass again is unknown.
“Since the company claims that the current hack is based on data compromised in the previous hack, this raises the question: Why did they not learn from the earlier hack and correct the root cause?” Mike Walters, VP of vulnerability and threat research at Action1, told Spiceworks. “The trend of repeated hacks, where the company fails to eliminate the consequences of the breach for months, is frustrating.”
In both LastPass breaches this year, the threat actors failed to access customer passwords thanks to the Zero Knowledge security model it has implemented that no one except the customer has access to the password or any other data stored in the company’s digital vault.
The password manager solutions vendor is working with Mandiant to ascertain the precise reason behind the hack. “We are working diligently to understand the scope of the incident and identify what specific information has been accessed,” Toubba said. LastPass’s previous August 2022 breach came through a compromised developer account that had access to the company’s developer environment.
Walters added, “To avoid this mistake, you should take decisive steps to investigate the security incident, as well as to find and fix any and all security vulnerabilities. Namely, carefully examine the investigation report and conduct an in-depth analysis of all architectural issues. Implement robust network segmentation and complete visibility into network traffic and user behavior. Ensure you receive alerts about any abnormal events.”
“Also, validate that your IDS/IPS, Endpoint Protection, EDR, NGFW, Sandbox, Honeypot, and RMM systems are in place and fine-tuned according to your business needs. Finally, you need to have a SOC center for incident response.”
Image source: Shutterstock
MORE ON DATA BREACHES
‘The Callisto Protocol’ Reviews Are In, And They Are Concerning – Forbes
We have reached the last few high profile releases of the year, and The Callisto Protocol was a game that many were looking forward to, a survival horror outing that seemed like it would be a spiritual successor to Dead Space.
But now that reviews are coming in, it seems to be falling short of that series, and while reviews are…okay, a few major critics and outlets have given it unusually low scores. The Callisto Protocol is currently sitting at a 76 Metascore, a ways off from the 86 of Dead Space, the 90 of Dead Space 2, and closer to the 78 of Dead Space 3, which was viewed as a series low point, before Visceral was eventually dismantled.
My friend Skillup, whose tastes I trust pretty explicitly at this point, positively roasted the game in his review:
Elsewhere, we’re seeing a number of high profile outlets in gaming give The Callisto Protocol some of its lowest scores:
IGN – 7/10 – “The Callisto Protocol is a satisfyingly gory spiritual successor to the Dead Space series, but it’s ultimately more of a striking modern mimic than a scary new mutation.”
Game Informer – 6/10 – “These various problems aside, though, The Callisto Protocol is still doing a lot of what Dead Space did, for better and worse. And to that end, there are moments of fun, even if, in contrast, they’re light on genuine terror. I’m okay with The Callisto Protocol being another version of its spiritual predecessor, but it struggles to nail even the basics. As a result, I’m underwhelmed, annoyed, and disappointed. If you wanted anything more out of this second crack at making a new sci-fi IP in survival horror, or something markedly different that acknowledges just how far gaming has come since 2008, The Callisto Protocol is not your answer.”
VGC – 6/10 – “The Callisto Protocol delivers the violence, intensity and horror that lives up to its Dead Space predecessor, but with deeper strategic combat. However, a cliché story and lack of original ideas means that it has one tentacle stuck in the past.”
That isn’t to say there isn’t any praise. Here’s a somewhat shocking perfect 10/10 score from Dextero:
“A wonderfully exhausting exercise in futility is probably the best way of describing The Callisto Protocol as no matter the strength of my own resolve, I was constantly on edge and reveling in those fleeting moments where the game allowed me to breathe following yet another life-threatening fight. The constant fear and dread incited by the phenomenal visual and sound design are only complemented by the compelling story. The Callisto Protocol is, hopefully, the start of an exciting new franchise, and is another sign that survival horror is anything but dead.”
The Callisto Protocol is being released about two months ahead of the Dead Space remake from EA, but so far, it does seem like you may be better sticking off with the original than the “spiritual successor” here. It may find its fans, but this is not shaping up to be a last minute industry megahit, if most of these reviews are to be believed. We’ll see what fans make of it as it heads to the wild.
Pokémon Scarlet And Violet Patch Divides Players Over Whether Anything's Fixed – Kotaku
Others are reporting greater render distances, improved shadows, fading light changes, and fade-in rather than pop-in for NPCs.
However, Nintendúo World’s side-by-side framerate test seems to show each version out-performing the other in different places. Although I’d argue there’s definitely some improvement when entering towns in 1.1.0:
One more for luck? This side-by-side comparison by Reyvanlatino (which unfortunately plays the music from both simultaneously, but just out of time) makes them look absolutely identical to me:
So yeah, it’s pretty difficult to know exactly what’s happening here, and why different people are recording such different experiences.
In my own very unscientific comparison, I played the same area on my son’s original Switch with the 1.1.0 patch and on my OLED without the patch, and to my eyes the patched version seemed noticeably smoother. But, my eyes are notorious idiots, and either way, it was far from a revelatory experience.
It’s so hard to know what’s your imagination versus what’s a genuine improvement, but Pokémon still popped in, and it was still freezing up for half a second at random points. (Still, at least I caught a bunch of the Violet paradox monsters to trade to myself later.) If things are improved, they’re absolutely definitely not improved enough.
We asked Nintendo yesterday if they could be more specific about what had been patched, and didn’t even receive a response. So we’ve asked again today, not least because it seems like they could have something to boast about here. We’ll obviously update should they find time to reply. Although perhaps they’re relying on people’s hopeful imaginations to fill in where they did not?
Meanwhile, come on Digital Foundry, pull your fingers out and give us the definitive answers.
LastPass Suffers Second Major Data Breach in Four Months | – Spiceworks News and Insights
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