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theEweekly Wrap: Harry Potter, Labs and Lulz

Labs’ labour’s lost The tech world will soon have to bid a fond farewell to Google Labs. The site has long been the testing ground for early prototypes of Google products, and has spawned some of the web’s most innovative tools. Google Goggles – the app that converts a photo taken on a mobile phone into a Google search – was developed in Labs, while one of the current hits is a searchable 3D model of the human body.

In an official blog post entitled More wood behind fewer arrows, Google explained the shutdown saying “we’re prioritizing our product efforts” and revealed that “in many cases, this will mean ending Labs experiments”. However, the company clarified that their ‘20% time’ policy would not be affected. This allows employees to spend a fifth of their time working on new projects and ideas; but with nowhere to test and improve on those new ideas, some will now never see the light of day.

Hackers hacked The News of the World phone hacking scandal entered the online arena this week as parent company News International found itself the victim of hacktivists. The problems first started on Sunday night, when the Sun website was hacked and redirected users to a fake page, reporting Rupert Murdoch’s death. The hacker group LulzSec claimed responsibility, and revealed via Twitter that they had obtained the email addresses and passwords of News International staff.

Webmail and remote access were taken offline to avoid further breaches, and passwords reset across the company. However, the damage may already have been done. LulzSec claims to have 4GB of staff emails, and yesterday tweeted: “We’re currently working with certain media outlets who have been granted exclusive access to some of the News of the World emails we have.” Wednesday saw a spate of arrests involving alleged hackers in New York and London.

Harry Potter and the Google eBooks deal Harry Potter author J.K Rowling has signed a deal enabling the bestselling series to be made available for the first time through Google eBooks. Rowling unveiled her own website called Pottermore last month, which will fully launch in October 2011 and features additional content, games, audio and the exclusive eBook downloads. The deal means Google will be providing the download and storage platform, and payment system, through which the Harry Potter eBooks are obtained – although readers will have to visit the Pottermore site to make their purchase.

However, Kindle owners need not worry. An Amazon spokesperson told TechCrunch that the company is “working closely with Pottermore to make sure Kindle customers will be able to buy and read J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books.” The seven novels have sold over 450 million copies, amassing Rowling a fortune estimated by Forbes at £613 million.

Written by Rachel Hand

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