back to article iPad media apps: Stealthed hobbits thwart Google's flaming Eye

Tablet media applications have a Google invisibility cloak around their stories. As this spreads a deadly revenue-denying dart could penetrate Google's media business model. eyeofSauron 'There is no hope in the void' The worldwide web is wide open, and Google takes full advantage of that, indexing everything it can find …


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  1. Ru

    Yay, unsearchable data!

    If you can't hide subscriber-only content from unauthorised third parties without having to write an iwhatever application, you already have some pretty serious issues. It isn't rocket science.

    Allowing search engine spiders to see an abstract of an article's content with an associated 'subscribe here!' link is a non uncommon solution either; various academic paper repositories and journals take this approach.

    By hiding all your data, no-one is going to know what they're missing, so its going to be trickier to pick up a wider audience. You're also require your own search engine for your archives and most people seem utterly inept at doing such things compared to google's reasonably slick offering.

    1. Raumkraut

      Google's revenue source

      Actually, when it comes to a site offering "their own" search engine for their archives, Google have for many years sold/licensed a "search appliance" (server) for companies to use internally.

      I imagine it could be quite profitable for Google to supply private black-box search appliances for the back-ends of these walled-garden apps. They may already be doing so in many cases.

  2. dickiedyce


    Yeeeeees. Let me see. You're suggesting that I'll be choosing to use multiple apps on my iPhone-alike to get content that I would otherwise get through a single app? AOL anyone? Remember them? The content providers will certainly win, but not sure that users will wear it. I think we should wait and see how the Murdoch press experiment works out first...

  3. Anonymous Coward


    As Dilger has been first to posit, Apple comes out with a Windows App Store. It shouldn't be too hard to have Cocoa apps running on Windows, in fact, they have it running in the labs already. The day Apple comes out with the App Store for Windows is the day OSX has become obsolete. Most will not realise this at the time, but if/when Apple introduces ASfW they really don't care about the desktop wars anymore, it's all about cathcing as many users as you can before html 5/6 levels the playing field.

  4. Jim Coleman

    I've been saying this for ages...

    ...This is why Google created Android. They hope to dominate the mobile world of apps as well, so they CAN still mine all the data for their own nefarious purposes.

    They've also come up with Android tablets to thwart the iPad and Chrome OS to try to thwart Macs and Windows PCs.

    Google are running scared and have tried to put everything in place so they can continue to slurp everyone's data.

    They can't afford to lose.

    1. petur

      @Jim Coleman

      Indeed, they can't afford to lose, which is why they are pushing open standards so much. For the users, it gives an open and free alternative. Win-Win IMHO

  5. Natalie Gritpants Silver badge

    WW means world wide

    There's a difference between the internet and the www. the world wide web is the killer app that made the internet popular. I'm sure these platform specific closed apps look attractive to media publishing companies because they enable more control than the www but they also lack the world-wide aspect.

    What next? Some bright spark comes up with cross platform apps?

    1. blah 5

      The 'Net was popular LONG before the Web

      Take a look at the growth rate of the Internet before and after the introduction of Tim W-L's baby. It's nearly identical.

      Nope, the Web launching was not the key to its popularity. Simply providing connectivity in an open and unrestricted fashion was.

      The Internet is last century's version of the Gutenberg printing press. The Web? Linotype. A really, REALLY nice idea that expanded upon an already existing concept. :)

  6. hplasm

    On the other hand-

    If you can't search for it, no-one can find it.

    Unless they already know where it is, they won't see it....

    Sounds ideal for the Murdoch Version of Things (TM)

    1. James Hughes 1


      I use Google to search,; if that search doesn't have access to the news sites using Apps's, then I don't see links to them and I don't go there, or even know that the content exists!

      Or... if Google get round the search problem, they have nothing to link to anyway, as that would require the searcher to have the correct apps which may not be the case. I suppose that Google could link to the subscription service saying that the data you want is in there, but that would require the data holders to cooperate.

      1. TheRealRoland

        So, how about...

        instead of supplying links as http://whatever, why not implement a new (open?) standard, that allows apps to retrieve news using news://whatever?

        Sounds like fun :-)

        But, that currently goes against rules set by Apple, if I remember correctly? "Each app should have a distinctive functionality, and cannot be just a simple rss reader", or something similar?

        1. M Gale


          Already exists. It's for USENET, if I recall correctly. Been a while since I was a trawler of the alt.* heirarchy, but I still fondly remember reading through the list of silly newsgroups like alt.alien.vampire.flonk.flonk.flonk, alt.2eggs.sausage.beans.tomatoes.2toast.largetea.cheerslove and others.

          These days, if you describe USENET to someone they tend to respond with "oh, is that like Google Groups?"


  7. petur

    Not only a problem for Google

    When content providers move to dedicated apps, it is not only Google that gets a problem. For us users the problem is much bigger: it takes away our freedom on how we consume it (reader/browser choice), when we consume it (caching/saving), and ease of use. Unless an app (icon) for every damn news or media source is something you fancy.

    Luckily, I do not have or want an iPad (or any other iCr*p device), I believe in open standards and freedom of information. Too bad things on this world are run by the majority, in this case (scrap that, in all cases) a bunch of idiots (yes, idiots also starts with an i)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Death of the open internet?

    The increasing fragmentation of the internet has been predicted for a while, but it seems to be coming more prominent in mainstream media (particularly with Vaizey's comments about a potentially tiered internet & the net neutrality debate in the US). Even the Daily Mail website carried an item in Michael Hanlon's science blog about this very issue. Hopefully this will make the public more aware of the issues. To be honest people take the internet's openess for granted & I hate to think it that it will disappear as we know it.

    However, I think the internet has many enemies who hate that very openess. The US pays lip service to freedom of the web, but when something like Wikileaks happens they must rue its Wild West nature. Plus there's all those viruses, spam emails, scams, hackers, etc. that thrive because of that openess. There's all that smut out there that outrages many sensibilities. There's China & Iran & all the other authoritarian states who also hate the access to information the internet allows. There's big business that wants to turn the internet into the equivalent of cable TV (where they control what you watch) & tether you to certain devices & applications. There's all the media websites who regret giving away their content for free. There's all the record companies who don't like the downloading of their music.

    Certainly the internet is a chaotic place & perhaps more control is a necessary evil. However it would be a terrible shame if the ability to go to any website with whatever device you choose is increasingly restricted. But an open internet is something that many groups despise.

  9. JB478

    Maybe not.....

    Surely at some point it will be possible to index apps content that runs on your own OS. Plus link to that content from normal web searches? And if that OS is the the most widely adopted in the world, then you'd potentially take over Google's existing search revenue. Except that its Google that will own that new app landscape with Android. Personally I don't think they've got as much to worry about as you think...

  10. brambu
    Thumb Down

    This article makes no sense.

    Google respects a robots.txt file. Maybe the huffington post uses one for those elements of their website?

    Yeah, If I have a file called 'robots.txt' and it tells Google to go away, then Google will not index my site.

    This isn't new.

  11. burnard

    Too many apps already....

    Two points. First off won't all these apps get lost amongst themselves? How many apps on the iStore already? Imagine one app for the Times, another for Sky News, another fox XY&Z.

    Secondly, if these apps find there way onto noteboosk, netbooks, PC's etc this causes more issues. You can't buy a new computer now without loads of crap apps you don't want. 30-day anti-(compeition)-virus trials, toolbars, cloud backup.....etc etc. You can't even download and install AVG Free without it trying to sneak on a poxy toolbar these days.

    The point of the web is one browser, of your choice of course, and access to all content. Its open, standards based, simplr and it works. How do all these apps fit in with a cloud computing concept?

  12. yannickm

    Yes shure

    Now that we're living in a world where the ipad if the main method to access information ...


    except those pesky people who use windows and that "thing" the internet to access information....

    or those who use things like "linux", or "android phones", or all kind of crazy things that also use that useless thing "the internet", that no-one really uses anymore anyway...


    Give me a break, please return to the real world

  13. John Latham

    eh, no

    The WWW is not the internet.

  14. Anonymous Coward


    Well going by their robots, don't think they are overly concered about Google harvisting data.

    # All robots will spider the domain

    User-agent: *


    User-agent: *

    Disallow: /backstage/

    User-agent: *

    Disallow: /blackberry/

    User-agent: *

    Disallow: /users/becomeFan.php

  15. Cameron Colley

    If this happens it will prove idiots lead the way technology is used.

    Only a complete moron would want to install separate applications fro every news source and media outlet that they may, at some point in the future, want to visit.

    I can, almost, see the appeal of apps for subscription based media such as comics and video -- especially when they allow a customised experience for a device. But, in most cases, if the browser installed on the device is any good it will allow layout changes anyhow -- heck, isn't that one of the things iPhone owners used to carp on about when it first appeared?

    Also, how is this data locked away? Is it really served from a different domain, using a different protocol - or is it just server-generated XML based on the site's original content? If it's the former then it seems like a lot of trouble and expense to go to.

  16. Mage Silver badge

    Google will buy the Apps


    All google has to do it buy the apps to browse the App content?

    Replacing "The Web" by apps only makes sense if you want a small fee paying audience.

    It's just selling virtual versions of Magasines limited to particular device owners.

    So how many different OS are publishers going to support instead of one (The Web) which can be behind a pay wall anyway.

    You can limit even FREE content to be hidden from Sauron by requiring Membership.

  17. Peter Townsend

    Huffington Post

    "Will that cause Googleplexers to quake in their boots?"...maybe not in this instance because there is a Huffington Post app in the Android Market!

    This article seems to presuppose that world+dog will be consuming media exclusively from iOS apps despite the fact this quite clearly will never, ever, ever come even close to being the case.

  18. Hayden Clark Silver badge

    Use expectation conditioning

    Apple have finally delivered the mobile app nirvana that various companies have been striving for for years. Ordinary JoePublics - all of 'em, even the clueless ones, can now buy and install apps. So everybody is now conditioned to installing stuff to get stuff.

    So moving content to apps, and off the Web, is a big win for the providers and just a "meh" for most people. Reading a paper on a iPhone/other smartphone is often a sub-optimal experience, but reading on a custom-designed app will be easier.

    Us techies are just baying at the moon on this one.

  19. thesykes

    fair enough

    If a website wants to attract me as a paying subscriber, it first has to attract me to its articles. If I can't see an abstract of an article in search results, or, at least on the site itself, how do they expect me to dip into my pocket and pay them?

    Whether the app is iOS, Android, WM7 or Symbian is irrelevant. New users won't search for apps for newspapers they've never read before and won't pay to use the app if they have no idea of the quality or bias of a publication.

    A fisherman won't catch much with his bait securely locked away in his bait box... he needs to let the fish have a taste before they'll bite.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Not News

    A paid for app that allows you access data not allowed to the rest of the internet (or Google) is the same as adding a password.

    Please think before you write.

    I've come to expect a better level of journalism from El Reg

  21. Anonymous Coward

    There's an app for that

    ...and it's called a browser. If I needed an app for everyone content provider I regularly visit I wouldn't be able to see my desktop background for all the icons and I'd spend more time trying to find the right app than reading/viewing/listening to my content.

    Honestly I can't see myself downloading an app for a single news site - I don't think this is really going to be a problem. There's a limit to how many apps a person can reasonably and regularly use.

  22. Ray Anderson

    The others have probably said it all..

    You can cloak your content as much as you want on a web browser: Stop spiders, use Captchas etc etc.

    You can decide on ads or no ads on a web page or an app.

    Its the apps that have the problem, they can't expose content easily, they can't embed content easily, they can't share content to multipl edevices, and they are a mega fail when it comes to "tweeting" or "liking"

    Its Google that must be feeling comfortable looking at the way apps are struggling to mimic web capabilities, and knowing that the browser developers are waking up to embrace and extend all teh app capability that becomes important to users.

  23. M Gale

    News apps.

    I have an excellent one. It's called "Firefox".

    I understand there are several others such as "Chrome", "Safari", "Android Browser", and even this really bizarre one called "Opera".

    There's rumours that Microsoft have one that they called "Internet Explorer", but I'm pretty sure that's just a story made to frighten children.

  24. David Barr

    Interesting and feasible

    Would you install an smartphone/pad app that preloaded headlines and text for El Reg so that when you were on the move it didn't have to transfer as much data... thus making the app significantly faster and a better experience than using a browser? I would. Travelling on a train and browsing the web on 3G and losing/gaining signal etc doesn't make for a snappy browsing experience.

    I can see myself installing an app for several newspapers, and tech sites. I can't see it on the home PC though, because browsing is painless there... not unless the app made the experience better.

    But is all of that impossible to deliver through a browser? I would have very much thought not. As others have said you can do it on www aleady to prevent content aggregation.

    News sites want to entice traffic to come to them, but they want to ensure that a content aggregator doesn't swipe their content and stop the customer coming to their website. I'm noticing more and more when I do searches on Google I'm getting the content aggregator hits first, and in the most case they're just stripping the text out of where I want to be, and presenting it in their own format. Aggregation isn't really what they're doing, it's more like content piracy.

    So I suspect instead of what the author said we will see something similar. We'll see content being obscured from search and aggregators. Then we'll see that getting more sophisticated so that people find the search results, but only part of the article is shown until they visit the site. Perhaps we'll even see the payway failing at the Times and them going for something more along the lines of the FT (you have to log in after a few pages, and you need to subscribe after a few more).

    Whatever it is though, it's important to note that it has to work. If it doesn't work then something else will be tried.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    If every news site has their own app...

    ... then I suspect Apple will ban them, just as they have recently banned radio stations from having their own apps, on the basis they would prefer to have a small number of apps each delivering a large number of stations.

    So regardless of what the news sites want, I think we'll be back to a few apps, that can each give access to a large number of news sites. Let's call these apps 'browsers'.

    If so, this will be one of those rare occasions when I'll agree with the Apple app policies!

  26. Damian Turner-Steele

    iMac anyone?

    Despite all the noise and hype the i-diots still have only a fraction of the market. Regular phones, Android phones, pc's and laptops of all flavours still hugely out number the Apple. The only problem here is peoples perception of the problem. I am pretty confident that the iphone and ipad will go the same way as the imac. Expensive toys for people with more money than sense while the rest of the world goes on with PC's, tablets and phones running something else.

  27. Tim Almond

    Who Cares?

    Seriously. What's of any worth on the Times site in terms of exclusive content? An interview with Assange? Big deal. And the figures bear out how little most people care - they have 50K subscriptions to their paywall per month.

    The fact is that news is pretty much worthless now. A newspaper was always more about killing time on a train than the actual news you got. You could read the columnists, the music reviews, the sport and so forth.

    It used to be that trains were full of people reading broadsheets. Not today. They're either on their laptops, reading Metro or playing Angry Birds/Twittering on their iPhone.

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