The Oban Blog

Alibaba Coffee Cup

The global digital marketing weekly: Thursday 18 September 2014

In this week’s look at major digital marketing news from around the globe: China’s internet services giant, Alibaba, is featured by the BBC; the German justice minister wants Google’s algorithm to be public knowledge; Econsultancy looks at user experience in APAC’s budget airline sector; Google is now using regionally correct numbering in India; and distracted smartphone users get their own lane in one Chinese city.

BBC profiles Alibaba, and China’s top mobile video providers revealed

The BBC is doing its bit for mainstream awareness of global internet players by profiling Alibaba, calling it “the biggest business you’ve never heard of” ahead of next week’s flotation on the New York Stock Exchange. Starting with the genesis of the company as an exporter in 1999, the BBC covers the ecommerce arms of the company, including, and online payment system

The BBC points out that Alibaba’s dominance of smartphone technology has been key to its profitability, while also taking time to profile eccentric found, Jack Ma.

Meanwhile, China Internet Watch has revealed the country’s top mobile video providers, which is predictably full of names that won’t be familiar to many outside of China’s borders. iQiyi is currently top, its user numbers expected to double by the end of the year. Youku/Toudou and Tencent video also take strong shares in a market that is estimated at 270 million users.

German Justice Minister Guitar

German justice minister wants Google to publish its algorithm

Google’s EU antitrust saga continues to roll on, with a recent interview in the Financial Times revealing exactly the depth of antagonism (and, perhaps, the simple lack of comprehension) that they’re facing. As Search Engine Land reports, German justice minister Heiko Maas is asserting that Google needs to be more “transparent” about it algorithm, demanding that it share the exact formulas it uses to determine where pages should rank.

The idea is likened by SEL to asking Coca Cola to reveal the exact recipe of its product. Google has no wish to make its methods available to its competitors and to spammers looking for ways to game the system in pursuit of ranking improvements.

AirAsia airbus A320-216

Econsultancy critiques flight search user experience for Asia Pacific brands

Prompted by improving user-experience trends among Europe’s budget airlines, David Moth has written an interesting analysis of how APAC’s budget brands could improve their websites, over at Econsultancy. The article looks at AirAsia, TigerAir, Jetstar and Firefly. Problems identified include:

  • – Essential links such as “edit search” too small
  • – Placing search tools above distracting carousel elements
  • – Occasionally extreme colour schemes
  • – Visual clutter
  • – Tools offering flights that are no longer available
  • – Small and uninspiring calls to action

Moth does however find much to compliment about the market’s UX design, with flexible search dates and autocomplete functions bring the best sites ahead of their competitors.

Google India now using localised numbering format

A small but intriguing cultural change on Google has changed its numbering format to reflect the notation commonly used in the Indian Numbering System – where numbers over 9,999 are split into two digit groups rather than the three digit groups that other cultures are more familiar with.

Widely used in official and public life in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka, the system has equivalent terms for hundreds and thousands. However, 100,000 is termed one “lakh”, one million “ten lakh” and ten million “one crore”. This difference in unitisation is reflected in the differing placement of commas when written in numerals, as can now be seen in these screenshots from and

Google UK Bollywood Serp roundup-sepwk3-04a-bollywoodserp-googlein

Though only the tiniest of changes, using the local convention will remove one of the more subtle barriers to regional acceptance of the platform.

Walking and texting woman

Chongquing, China, opens ‘phone lane’ for the perpetually distracted

City authorities in the southwestern Chinese municipality of Chongquin have introduced a 30 metre “cellphone lane”, seemingly to raise awareness of the growing trend of mobile-related injuries in the city (and internationally). It follows a similar lane created in July on 18th Street, Washington DC by National Geographic.

As the Guardian points out, while the lane is unlikely to start a trend of distracted-walking lanes to rival the use of bicycle lanes in certain cosmopolitan cities, 1,506 emergency room injuries related to pedestrians walking distractedly were reported in the United States in 2010 – four times more than just five years previously.

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Alibaba coffee photograph by Charles Chan

Eine andere Seite an Heiko Maas by SPD Saar

AirAsia Airbus A320-216 by Aero Icarus

Walking and texting photograph by Adam Freidin