A nice and short one for you this week, but very likely still much longer than next two week’s WNR. The reason for the abridged versions of the WNR in the coming weeks is that I’m going on a much needed vacation, and it might be hard to find time to write up news stories, as well as the WNR.
No time to waste, lots of packing and planning still left to do, so here’s this week’s news stories …
Scammers may be profiting from Google’s decision to remove KickassTorrents pages from their search results. Google appears to have applied some kind of penalty to the site, pages from the site have either been removed or down-ranked (possibly down-ranked to position 1000+, something that Google typically does when it brings down the ban-hammer). Without official KAT pages in Google’s search results, using KAT related keywords now bring up a bunch of unofficial results, many stealing content from the real KAT and inserting their own (often adult) ads, or even malware sites offering fake KAT branded downloads.
This complete site removal doesn’t seem to be piracy related, since Google’s anti-piracy penalty doesn’t seem to down-rank sites so much. Plus whatever is happening seems to be unique to KickassTorrents, with no other piracy sites appearing to be affected.
Putting on my webmaster hat for a moment, the way KAT moved their site to a new domain could be responsible. If they did not use the “permanent” 301 redirect code, and instead used the default “302” redirect, or if content wasn’t redirected and was instead duplicated on both the new and old domains, then Google could have problems with this (although a quick redirect check now doesn’t seem to indicate this is the actual problem). Google does provide a tool that lets website owners tell them ahead of time about site moves.
But this kinds of highlights the problem with Google. It’s really hard to get any sort of concrete feedback from them when it comes to penalties (Google wants to keep website owners confused intentionally so they can’t find loopholes to exploit in relation to Google’s algorithm), and even if KAT fixes whatever was causing the penalty, it won’t be lifted immediately (may take 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months … nobody really knows the answer). So it could be a while before official KAT links are back on Google’s results pages, and that’s assuming the people running KAT ever figure out what the penalty was for.
On a somewhat related note, uTorrent’s site and downloads were blocked by Google Chrome earlier in the week, similar to what Google did to major torrent sites earlier in the month. Google’s anti-PUP (potentially unwanted software) algorithm has been turned up to 11 in recent weeks, and it has caught out many sites. Some were complete false positives and some were semi-false positives like with the major torrent sites and uTorrent (these sites advertised or had downloads that included bundled offers and things like toolbars, which Google considers PUP. But these are not as malicious as actual fake downloads and scam-ware, which is the real problem Google is trying to tackle).
For the casual observer, all of this seems to add up to a new war against piracy sites, but for now, it all appears to be coincidences or unintended consequences or Google’s ongoing war against, um, a lot of different groups (webmasters who try to game the Google search rankings, bundle ads providers, malware distributors …).
At least with bundled offers, you always have the option to not install them if you pay close attention to the installer. What’s less optional these days is insecure DRM that potentially opens up your system to all sorts of nasties. The last place you’d probably expect to be forced to install DRM is during a long flight, but that’s what United Airlines is forcing passengers to do if they want to watch movies on their own personal devices. And not only that, users also have to install the insecure Flash plug-in.
But the blame doesn’t really lie with United, but with paranoid Hollywood studios that genuinely fear users will go to all the trouble to book a flight on United just so they can rip movies, most of which have been out on DVD for years. You and I might think this is ridiculous, but Hollywood’s paranoia goes way beyond reason.
Blu-ray revenue is on the slide, with a recent week’s revenue figures falling to levels not seen since 2010. Those that follow our weekly Blu-ray revenue analysis will have seen the signs, and there is no doubt that since about the second half of last year, Blu-ray’s meteoric rise has been stalling.
A lot of it has to do with the poor release slate for this year. There have been some big releases this year, including Gone Girl, Interstellar, Big Hero 6, Fifty Shades and American Sniper, but these cannot compare to Thor, Frozen or The Lego Movie (but mostly Frozen). Interestingly, I think Blu-ray’s fortunes will pick up later this year and next year when Jurassic World, the new Avengers movie, Inside Out and the coming attractions M:I 5, the last Hunger Games movie and the new Star bloody Wars, all make their way onto Blu-ray in 2015 and 2016.
So it’s a bit early to write Blu-ray’s obituary, but things have definitely slowed down.
It’s easy to blame things like streaming for the potential downfall of discs, and services like HBO Now and Hulu that gives you access to newly aired TV episodes may affect TV box set sales, for new release movies, Blu-ray and DVD is still the best choice for many.
Speaking of Hulu, the ad-supported streaming outfit is considering going ad-free via a higher priced subscription plan. Considering how many people freaked out when Netflix experimented with in-house ad-spots for its original programming a while back, I’d say going ad-free can only make Hulu more popular (currently 19 times less popular than Netflix, according to user download data). It always struck me as weird to be forced to watch unskippable ads even after I’ve paid a monthly fee, regardless of how new the content is compared to Netflix.
That’s it for the week. Wasn’t as short as I thought, but this will have to do for the next couple of weeks while I’m holidaying it up. Talk to you soon.