free html hit counter October 2003 - John Battelle's Search Blog
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Microsoft and Google?

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I’ve written about this before, in Business 2.0, pointing out that MSFT and Google – in some ways – share similar cultures. But I really doubt this will happen, regardless of the rumours spurred by reports in the NYT. Of course MSFT wishes it had Google, and of course Google respects MSFT. But I just don’t see them doing it. If they do, well, it’d be the biggest thing to hit the internet since AOLTW. Enough said.

Baby coming…

By - October 30, 2003

So things will be a bit quiet, at least until I add a link with pictures of Baby #3…

O'Reilly on Tech/Media Future

By - October 29, 2003

“We’re all Linux users,” he points out at the OSCOM conference this week. Huh? Well, we all use Google, a Linux application running over the net. His point is important: traditional notions of the application and operating system, once held fast to our individual computers, are in flux, and now the best applications run across the network (ie, iTunes, iPhoto, Google). I’d add that most of the best network applications are media applications, interestingly. Here’s more on the idea from Wired News.

AOL Turnaround?

By - October 28, 2003

First a piece in Fortune predicting a turnaround, mainly due to cost cutting and the rising tide of online advertising, then this piece in the Times today. It again points to the rising tide, and claims AOL may have an ace up its sleeve – a positive surprise in the form of profit growh, due in large part to its relationship with Google and its ability to sell contextual positioning of video to big ticket advertisers like carmakers. About time, I’d say, and encouraging news. If AOL has a big Q4, there may yet be pop to the parent company’s stock. A downside: As with Yahoo and Overture, AOL may become too dependent on Google for its revenues/margins.

Architecture = Politics

By - October 27, 2003

I’ve long been waiting for something to boil over in the area where politics meets the architecture of search engines. I’m not sure this is it, but it certainly points the way. Someone over at the DNC noticed that the White House website was purposefully blocking various public documents from being crawled by search engines. This usually is standard stuff – a file that webmasters keep called robots.txt instructs spiders to ignore various pages, usually because those pages are internally-focused or the company wishes to keep them private. However, White House-posted documents are clearly in the public record. A quick review of the White House’s .txt file shows that something else is going on. A lot of files about Iraq are in the “disallow” category. It’s pretty easy to assume an intention: Keep past statements about Iraq out of the public consciousness, especially ones that are now – er – out of touch with current reality (ie, it’ll be an easy peace! And inexpensive!). If you believe, as I do, that search engines are becoming a powerful proxy for what the public knows, then this action by the White House extends spin to the level of public records. It’s a fascinating move – clearly they knew they could not expunge the documents from the site, that would be too obvious, and it would mean they had something to hide. But…they seem to be trying to keep those embarassing public documents from being found via the tool most casual (or intentional) searchers use first (and sometimes only) – the search engine. Thanks to Dan Gilmor, who first posted this. Stay tuned, this one might turn into something.

Mining the Web for Marketing Intelligence

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I had a good conversation with the CEO of Intelliseek today. His company specializes in mining business intelligence from the roar of commentary and speculation in blogs, usenet, and various other opinion sites. The company also can probe internal user behavior (ie mine data on how users use a particular site) to gain analytical insights. The upshot: a much higher velocity feedback loop between producers and consumers. Examples: Consumer feedback on movie trailers, new cars, mutual funds, etc. can quickly be rolled into revisions, new features, or competitive advantage. All this from intelligently searching through public webspace. I came away impressed. Watch this company.

More on Sprinks: It's the distribution

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I’ve been thinking a bit more about the Sprinks deal, mainly through the lens of what’s happening to Google’s world. It’s simple, but true: When Yahoo switches over to its own internal search technology (which will happen soon – probably in the next two or three quarters), Google will lose a shitload of distribution. Seen in this light, it only makes sense to buy more through About.com, which is the fourth or fifth largest content site on the Web. If the IPO timing rumours are true, it would make no sense for Google to go public, then get clobbered when the other Yahoo shoe drops. Hence, the Sprinks deal is less about Sprinks, and far more about getting About.com’s distribution. The original press release and other coverage shows this was all about higher margins for Primedia, and gaining distribution for Google. Google’s own AdSense/AdWords will be used across the About/Primedia properties, not Sprinks. Sprinks itself will probably be kept on life support for a while, then killed/replaced with Google products. In this DirectNews article covering the deal, Kevin Lee put it well: “I don’t see it as a technology play. They made a case to Primedia that the cash flow would be higher with them than their own internal property.” Primedia, which is under significant debt burden and must focus on its core magazine business, is driven by a need to simplify its business and add to its margins. Google needs distribution to cover its anticipated losses from Yahoo’s future moves. Voila, a perfect union.