free html hit counter November 2003 | Page 3 of 5 | John Battelle's Search Blog

Another Good SE Relationship Chart

By - November 17, 2003

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This one from Search-This, a SEO/SEM house. The buttons, when clicked, activate colored arrows that chart who supplies who with what…ie Inktomi powers MSN, Google powers AOL, etc. (Thanks to Josh Quittner for the reference…)

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Google Code Jam Winner

By - November 16, 2003

Once a year Google holds a contest for hardcore search-related coders. This year, the Europeans swept, interestingly. But no mention of what they actually did (as I recall, last year they asked for new features, and the winner made a local search app that Google ended up incorporating into Google Labs)? I’ll look around…Aha…Read Slashdot threads here to find out more on the problems the Google coders were solving…MarketingWonk has a round up here of the PR and Marketing implications…

Why We Wish Some Public Information Would Remain Bound To Atoms (The Public Privacy Dilemma)

By - November 15, 2003

In the past few months I’ve gotten a fair number of similar email threads forwarded my way by friends who know I’m writing about search. By the time they’ve gotten to me, the emails have wound their way fairly well through the six-degrees-of-separation web, with scores if not hundreds of souls cc’d, forwarded, and attached. The subject line usually blares something along the lines of “I can’t believe they can do this!” and “Oh My God, Did You Know?”

Here’s a sample email, with identifying information deleted:

——————-
Subject: This is hard to believe, but true, I tried it.

Google has implemented a new feature wherein you can type someone’s
telephone number into the search bar and hit enter and then you will be
given a map to their house.
Before forwarding this, I tested it by typing my telephone number in
google.com. My phone number came up, and when I clicked on the MapQuest link, it actually mapped out where I live. Quite scary.
Think about it–if a child, single person, ANYONE gives out his/her phone
number, someone can actually now look it up to find out where he/she
lives. The safety issues are obvious, and alarming. This is not a hoax; Mapquest will put a star on your house on your street.
—————

I understand the initial reaction of many to this feature (which is not that new). My God, They Know Where I Live! But this fear of a such a simple thing – a reverse directory lookup – bears further contemplation. Fact is, reverse directories are not illegal. But they are also not widely available – usually only cops and reporters had access to them. No more. (more via link below)

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A Robust Market Ecology

By - November 14, 2003

When Google flutters its wings, a typhoon may result in the AdWords ecology – those hundreds of thousands of advertisers who depend on Google for sales via the company’s paid listings. So points out CNet’s Stephanie Olsen in a good overview of advertiser reaction to Google’s most recent shift in its AdWords technology. The complications Olsen reports point to a larger story: the increasing complexity of this shifting market ecology. The question then becomes, can any one company maintain control of this? I don’t think so, you need robust competition; the recent defection of Paul Ryan (former CTO of Overture) to MSN will help insure robust competitors for years to come.

Search Drives First-Ever Quarterly Profits at MSN

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This has been in the works for sometime, but MSFT formally announced its earnings yesterday, and broke out the MSN unit’s numbers for the first time. Headline: It’s all about paid search. The highlights (from the MSFT IR site): MSN had 50% quarter-to-quarter advertising revenue growth, total revenue totaled $491 million in the first quarter compared to $427 million in the prior year’s first quarter. MSN Subscription revenue declined $17 million or 6% reflecting a decrease in the number of subscribers. MSN Network services revenue grew $81 million or 51% as a result of growth in paid search and strong general advertising sales across all geographic regions.

Ask Searches For What's Next In Search

By - November 13, 2003

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Ask Chief Steve Berkowitz (caveat: we ran in the same circles at IDG) gives one of his first interviews (to the CC Times) since being formally named CEO. Steve’s a good guy and he has quite a job – being #4 in a three-horse race ain’t fun. But he lays out his plans and makes his case in the interview.

Samples:

Q: From whom are you gaining market share?

A: There’s Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL. I’m sure we’re picking up a little from each. We grew our queries by 33 percent in (the third quarter). We believe the market grew at 10 percent. That means we’re gaining share. Being a small player, that’s pretty significant for us. I don’t think the other people are noticing it. Google is focused on Yahoo, and MSN is focused on Google. They’re all focused on each other.

and…

Q: (What’s next for consumer search…)

A:….The next generation of search is going to be about getting underneath the needs of the user. One of the interesting things we’re testing in research is if someone types in the word “AF,” do you mean Air Force or do you mean Abercrombie & Fitch? We’re developing technology that will get underneath that and realize that most people mean Abercrombie. Or if I know you’re searching about upstate New York, and then you type in the word “apple,” you’re really not looking for Apple, the computer company. I can tell by the five searches you did previously that you’re really looking for an apple orchard, so maybe I can skew your results towards that. It’s getting into understanding the behavior of both the session you’re in, as well as what the masses are saying are better results. It’s about integrating all these different things back into the user experience, so what you get back is a much more perceived, personalized result.

The Database of Intentions

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So nothing really new in the news today, I wanted to take a graf or two and explain what I mean by The Database of Intentions, referred to in this post. That way I can use it again and again and just link the phrase to this post. Hey, we love the web, Ted Nelson lives….

The Database of Intentions is an idea central to the book I’ve been working on for the past year or so, which is tentatively titled “The Search: Business and Culture in the Age of Google” (Penguin/Putnam/Portfolio 2004). As with many in this industry, it all started with the Macintosh. Back in the mid 80s I was an undergraduate in Cultural Antropology, and I had a class – taught by the late Jim Deetz,which focused on the idea of material culture – basically, interpreting the artifacts of everyday life. It took the tools of archaeology – usually taught only in the context of civilizations long dead – and merged them with the tools of Cultural Anthropology, which interpreted living cultures. He encouraged us to see all things modified by man as expressions of culture, and therefore as keys to understanding culture itself. I began to see language, writing, and most everyday things in a new light – as reflecting the culture which created them, and fraught with all kinds of intent, contreversies, politics, relationships. It was a way to pick up current culture and hold it in your hand, make sense of it, read it.
(more via link below)

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Online Ad Sales Booming (The Standard)

By - November 12, 2003

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It gives me something of a thrill to reference The Standard in an article about booming online ad sales, and give credit to Matt McAllister, who runs Infoworld’s site and took over thestandard.com as a sidelight, as IDG was about to shut it down along with all of IDG.net. The archive is still not up, but Matt vows it will be, and the stories are all headline retreads from other IDG publications, but, there’s still a pulse there. Also, it’s really poignant to see contextual ads on the site, after all the dreaming I did of CRM doing – far too expensively – what contextual ads essentially can do now. Thanks Matt!

Diller, Cheshire Cat of Local Search

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Via MarketingWonk, I saw this short blurb in Crain’s NY business which points to Barry Diller’s increasing show of muscle in the local search market. He’s got Citysearch and various other localized online businesses, and Yahoo, MSN and Google are all hot for the opportunity to extend their advertising networks into the local market. Diller seemed to be at his Cheshire’d best on an earnings call Tuesday.

Watch What You Do While Online: Universities (Including Mine) Log Students' Net Usage…Govt. and RIAA Take Notice

By - November 11, 2003

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Eye opening Salon piece on Universities’ practice of logging the net usage of their student populations. It notes that these practices are under review as the Patriot Act and RIAA are subpoenaing the logs, which many universities kept as a matter of course (why? who knows). This is another example of the power of the Database of Intentions (a term that is central to my book, and I promise, I’ll explain at some point). Interestingly, the Patriot Act may well be responsible for the widespread loss of this valuable resource (see excerpts).

Excerpts: “At the University of California at Berkeley, the everyday Web-surfing habits of students are regularly watched and recorded. Berkeley’s Systems and Network Security group uses a program called BRO — named after the infamous fascist icon from George Orwell’s “1984″ — that keeps logs of every IP address students visit on the Internet from the campus network.

Cliff Frost, UC-Berkeley’s director of communication and network services, says that “this practice is under review right now,” because the campus community feels it interferes with academic freedom. He expects that the university will continue to keep logs but will discard them after a month or two. “I’d love to keep that data forever,” he adds, “if there weren’t the threats of subpoenas for vile purposes.” “

And…

” The only way to defend student privacy against USA-PATRIOT subpoenas, says University of Michigan public policy professor Virginia Rezmierski, is for university IT departments to stop saving their logs. You can’t subpoena information that doesn’t exist. Rezmierski is the lead author of a 2001 National Science Foundation study of network monitoring and logging practices on college campuses.

“I don’t think this study made people very happy when it came out,” she says. “A lot of our findings were very disturbing.” She describes interviewing a college systems administrator for the study who told her that he had singled out one student and periodically logged everything he did on his computer “because [the student] was really competent with network operations and he seemed a suspicious type.” “