free html hit counter November 2003 | Page 2 of 5 | John Battelle's Search Blog

This Month's Column Is Up

By - November 22, 2003

Here’s the 2.0 link, but you have to be a subscriber to get past the first page. So here it is as a pdf file (caveat: it will download when you click). I’m still working on putting my Biz 2.0 columns on this site in a more reader-friendly fashion…This month’s points to the idea (not really new now, but it felt more so six weeks ago when I wrote it) that the geeks behind the best innovations on the net are starting to get excited again over interesting problems that have Very Cool solutions, after two or so years of nuclear winter. Boing Boing points to another columnist who’s recently seen the same trend.

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Wharton States the Obvious, Hopes For The Press

By - November 21, 2003


OK, this is just too much. A major, respected school of business issuing what amounts to a puff piece/PR gloss on Google, quoting professors from various branches of the school (legal, marketing, etc), who manage to say just about nothing new. They don’t even answer the question raised by the article’s headline (“What is Google Worth?”) What on earth are they doing? Why, riding the Google PR machine, of course. “Hey, here’s an idea! Let’s round up all our professors, have them say smart-sounding things about Google, then take credit for regurgitating old ideas!”
Hurray for bandwagonism. I’d wager the folks at Google are a bit embarrassed by this.
This piece at Cnet shows the school has been paying attention to the company for some time. Come on UPenn – if you are going to pick up the discussion, add to it at least, especially as an academic institution.

Lanier (yes, Jaron) on Software, Biology, Complexity, and …

By - November 20, 2003

I am a subscriber to John Brockman’s Edge, which is sometimes (well, for me as a rank average mind, more than sometimes) insufferable for its – well, its intellectual preening (it’s basically conversations with folks who are scary smart) and its steadfast unwillingness to make itself reasonably approachable (its last missive, which comes by email, weighed in at 8900 words and seems entirely unedited, for example). But, at times I will plow through the thing, and on a recent occasion, I did just that when along came an interview with none other than Jaron Lanier, Wired staple way back in the age and a constant reminder of how fun and freaky those days were. (more below)

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Carat Strengthens Search Buying Department

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Adweek reports Carat Interactive has appointed Ron Belanger vice president of search engine marketing.
Excerpt: “In the newly created role, he will guide the strategic vision of the interactive shop’s 10-person search-engine marketing practice, which handles paid placement, paid inclusion and search-engine optimization for clients like Hyatt Hotels. He will report to Carat Interactive evp, managing director Alan Osetek and will be based at the Boston headquarters.”
This is one more sign that Search has come of age in the media world. (via MarketingWonk)

Cato Weighs in on Google-As-Public-Utility Meme

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Upshot: they don’t like the idea much. Nor do I, but it’s not because I hold an unfettered libertarian worldview. I thought the meme of “let’s regulate Google like a public utility because it has too much power” was a short lived one, and I’m not sure why Cato brought it up again, but, there you have it. The piece has a lot of links in it and therefore provides a pretty good overview of the “Is Google Too Powerful” concept. Plus the piece even quotes one of my columns, though without direct attribution (it does point to my article hosted and mirrored on some other site…hey…wait a minute! But I guess that’s one way to get my stuff out there beyond the walls of the Time Inc. enclave….) It’s nice to know folks are reading…

Thoughts on a Day With Yahoo and Feedster

By - November 19, 2003


Today I was offline most of the day, as I was working on the book. I met with key folks at Yahoo Search and Scott Rafer , the reasonably new CEO of Feedster (Feedster is a search engine which trolls only RSS feeds. What’s an RSS Feed? Read this). Lots of discussion about the present, past and future of search. I left Yahoo impressed with where the company is and how the folks I spoke to approached the problem/opportunity of search. Yahoo has the longest history and the richest resource set of any of the current search players, and they certainly have got serious search religion, something that definitely waxed and waned over the past five or so years. Much talk of the lessons of Google, the looming competition with Microsoft, and good discourse on the best ways forward w/r/t search solutions. Ninj Srinivasan, employee #5 and Editor of Yahoo, has been there for nearly 9 years and is still stoked to come to work every day. That says a lot to me. Funny side note: while I was there, 1600 Yahoo employees and various friends went out into the parking lots and broke the world record for simultaneous yodeling. I’m not kidding…

Meanwhile, Scott at Feedster reminded me that PageRank was created back in a time when making links was pretty hard to do, and therefore a scarce resource, so one could reasonably trust that the links were authoritative. But, he supports the idea (as do others, see here and here) that blogs have muddied the waters for PageRank to the point of diminishing returns. I am certainly not one with the chops to judge, but I do wonder how this meme is playing out now that it’s been in the world for a while? It’s not like anyone has come up with anything demonstrably better….
In a related note, Scott mentioned an intriguing development at Feedster that he calls Feedpaper. From his site: “Feedpaper is a dynamic newspaper constructed from RSS feeds around a particular topic.” They are playing around with the idea on the site, for examples, check out this one on the Dean campaign and this one on the recent Longhorn developer conference (Longhorn is the new version of Microsoft’s interface, due sometime later this decade…). Scott’s thesis is that algorithmic search engines do a pretty poor job of aggregating this kind of content for readers interested in a very specific “island” of information. Watch this space, it could get interesting.

Singingfish Bought by AOL

By - November 18, 2003

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When I was at AdTech way back in June I met with Karen Howe, CEO of Singingfish, an audio/video search engine. I believed then and still believe now that video and audio files will become integral to the grammar of the web, but first we have to solve major search and copyright issues. In any case, I enjoyed meeting her, but left feeling like they had a significant uphill battle – a very small company in a land of giants.

Well, no more. I was messing around on Google news earlier this afternoon and somehow I came across a very odd link from the Puget Sound Business Journal about Singingfish being sold to AOL. Google’s summary had details: the excerpt read “has acquired Seattle-based Singingfish Inc., which makes a search engine that scours the Web for audio and video files. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. … ” but when I clicked on the link, it took me to a story with the headline “MagnaDrive raises $3.5 million “. Turns out the Puget Sound Journal had jumped the gun on a embargoed story, and Google News grabbed it before they could swap it out. The news officially breaks tonight at midnight, but … you saw it here first!

As to what it all means – I find it a bit out of character for AOL to acquire a search engine – and even more so one of this stripe. AOL has formidable serving and personalization technology in house, but it’s never really been seen as a leader in search. It outsources that to Google – though it is true that Google does not do multimedia search (Alta Vista and AlltheWeb do). Is this a bid to change all that? Stay tuned, I’ll keep you posted.

UPDATE: USA Today has a story on the sale now…

On Bad Approaches To Search

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GrokLaw, a blog run by a paralegal who must be hepped up on triple espressos, has posted an interesting journey into the seamy side of paid search. Basically, this fellow noticed a significant discrepancy between Google and MSN’s search results, and set out to understand why. This is a great illustration of a theme that is fundamental to Google’s mojo: purity of results. MSN comes across as basically sold to the highest bidder, with competitive manipulations on top of that. It’s not a pretty picture. When MSFT launches its new search engine, one hopes they will keep this in mind.

The NYT, Yesterday's News, and Plausible Deniability

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In this post on his blog, Dan Gillmor of the SJMN points to the contradiction between “company executives and others” who claimed MSFT approached Google about a buyout (see my earlier post and comments here) and Gates’ very clear denial of same earlier this week. Dan points out that Gates is the CEO of a public company, so he can’t very well lie about something so material to his stock price. Because of this he implies that Google insiders – such as the VCs who backed the company – are the likely sources of the story.

I’m not so sure. The sourcing in the Times piece seems intentionally non-specific:

“According to company executives and others briefed on the discussions, Microsoft – desperate to capture a slice of the popular and ad-generating search business – approached Google within the last two months to discuss options, including the possibility of a takeover.”

Which company does “company executives” modify, MSFT – which is closer to the sourcing, or Google? Who knows?! My guess is the Times kept it vague on purpose, to protect its sources. (more via link below)

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MSFT jumps into News

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Internet News reports:

“Software giant Microsoft is testing its answer to Google’s popular news aggregator and search site. “MSN Newsbot”, on MSN UK, France, Spain and Italy, signals at least one of Microsoft’s intentions as it seeks to build out its own search technology.”

This is one area where MSFT has some serious prior chops – MSNBC has been thinking about news online for a long time. Should be interesting to see how it shakes out in this market.