free html hit counter December 2003 - Page 3 of 8 - John Battelle's Search Blog

Gurley on Cable Regulation: Counterintuitive Thinking

By - December 20, 2003

I subscribe to Bill Gurley’s Above the Crowd newsletter, and always find his insights worth the read. (Bill is a VC at Benchmark, and a former partner of mine on the Internet Summit conferences.) His latest missive, “Cleaning Up After the Ninth Circuit in an Attempt to Save the Internet” is an exercise in counter-intuitive thinking. When I first read about this decision, I thought it was a victory against the evil cable companies, who I am always willing to believe have nothing but their own monopolies at heart. The ruling said, in short, that cable lines had to be viewed as telecommunication services rather than information services. The distinction was important, as it meant the cable lines were subject to the same sharing rules as phone lines. In other words, it could open cable up to competition, similar to what the RBOCs already face.

Given that for three of the past four years SBC felt my neighborhood was not profitable enough to offer DSL, and I had to get it from Speakeasy, which offers service on top of SBC lines, I thought this kind of a ruling was a good idea – maybe there would finally be someone like Speakeasy who could offer me cable modem speeds and who had a clue about the internet (Comcast clearly does not – don’t get me started on that one).

Bill makes the case that while the intent of the court may have been good, the result could be crippling. I am not sure I agree with everything he writes – much of it is pretty rigid anti-regulation sentiment – but he makes some good points. Among them:

…Often in complex political systems, the objective of an action can be honorable, yet the impact of said action can be completely at odds with the objective. This is largely because the tools we use to encourage behavior in such systems are often crude and imprecise.

Attempting to increase competition by mandating that a company invest in infrastructure and then share that infrastructure with competitors is simply not a market-based solution. …

We should all know by now that rather than increasing competition, regulation typically reinforces monopolies and oligopolies. Startups will not and cannot prevail in heavily regulated industries. …

Bill concludes that either the Congress of the Supreme Court will have to clean up the Ninth’s mess.

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LinkedIn+Vertical Blogs = Interesting Microcommunities

By - December 19, 2003

I think it’d be cool if you could join a network of folks who read the same blog(s). I’ve always maintained that any good publishing effort understands and reflects its community – that it is both a mirror to the community members, and a window into that community for folks who are interested in joining or understanding that community. Conferences have always been a neat way for readers of a publication to meet each other, for example. Foo Camp was one of the first I’ve been to where “blog ecologies” ended up meeting FTF, and it was quite something to see how folks who’d been connected mainly by blogs ended up working together in real space.

So think if you could “see” all the other people who read this site each day (and who opt-in to be seen, of course) – and invite them into a LinkedIn like network if you wished to. I wonder if that’s in the cards for LinkedIn – to do vertical OEM stuff like that? Are there others working on stuff like this?
(Thanks for the meme, Matt…)

In a Name…

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(caveat: site related)

A few readers of this site may recall the naming discussion we had back in 1997-8 when The Standard was born. Back then I was trying to come up with a name that properly captured the intent of the magazine, and I had several dogs in contention before Denise Caruso, Steven Johnson and I came up with The Industry Standard over (more than one round of) drinks in NYC. During that exercise, and during many subsequent and prior naming go-rounds, I always started email lists with trusted advisors, pinging them with naming ideas and getting their feedback.
This is a long way of saying that one of the reasons you see the “beta” tag on the banner of this site is that I’ve always been dissatisfied with its name. Somehow attaching the word “blog” felt dated, but I did it anyway, if only to signal the form the site would take. So with that in mind, I seek your counsel. You’ve been reading for a while now. Which of these names capture best the feel of this place? (I’m partial to the idea of keeping Search in the name, as you can tell).


Have any others? If I rename the site to your suggestion, you get bragging rights forever, just like Steven and Denise have. Think of the whuffie….

And as long as I’m doing site news, I’ve now updated my templates to support RSS 2.0, so you can see links and pics in your readers, if they support 2.0.

How the Information Age = The Dark Ages

By - December 18, 2003

This meme has popped up a lot over the past decade: We’re increasingly putting everything on digital media, which is great, but we’re failing to archive it properly, and even when we do, we’re not archiving the machines we need to read the data. A librarian at the British Library makes this observation again in an article entitled The Great Digital Information Disappearing Act. (Thanks Gary for the link).

But we’re missing a larger point. It’s not just the data – the emails, MP3s, the websites. It’s also the data about the data – the traces of our digital culture that are kept in the database of intentions. That data – what people wanted, when they wanted it, how they asked for it, what they got, where they went – represents no less than the cultural artifacts of our day, equivalent to the pottery shards and stone tools left by our forbearers. Imagine yourself an archaeologist 2,000 years from now. Wouldn’t you like access to MSN or Google’s database of intentions, so as to plumb the traces of an ancient culture emerging into the digital era? But to date, most search companies are either not archiving that data, or if they are, they are keeping it to themselves for competitive or legal reasons. There are huge privacy issues, of course, in insuring this data becomes part of our digital history, but they are solvable. What we don’t have is the cultural will or foresight to realize what we’re creating.

In any case, this is one of the larger informing concepts I am working on for the book. Your comments and input greatly appreciated.

A New Class of Google Results, With Interesting Implications

By - December 17, 2003

I just read a piece by Bambi Francisco (it’s here, scroll down in the story) in which she claimed in passing that typing “ugg boots” into the main page at Google returned a subcategory of results – above the regular “pure” search results but distinct from the advertising – called “Product Search.” I tried it in quotes – “ugg boots” – and it didn’t work. Without quotes – ugg boots – it did. I then tried “digital camera” and there it was again.

What do you know – a new class of results (from Froogle, see my earlier post which missed this) nested rather uncomfortably between the sponsored results at the top and on the right side, and the pure results below. Also interesting was the fact that the results were in the same white background as the regular “pure” search results, though they are distinct in look and feel.

This is a very interesting development with significant implications. Many would claim this is a major step toward Yahoo or MSN-like approaches on the part of Google. Others would argue that Google in fact is simply trying to do its users a favor, inferring that most searchers who type such queries are in fact in shopping mode. But it is a clear departure from the conceit – and I use that term nuetrally – that Google has always maintained, which is that the results offered by their engine are free of human intervention – that they in fact reflect the results of a carefully tended algorithmic secret sauce applied to every site without bias. Clearly, humans have decided to put that category of Product Search on top of the main results. And certainly those results are not subject to the same secret sauce which sifts the rest of the unwashed web. (One can imagine merchants racing to game Froogle, now that Froogle results are showing up – in first position no less – on the firehose of traffic that is the main results page of Google). No matter how you slice it, this marks a departure.

Interesting indeed. I am attempting to find out if this is just a test, a trial balloon of sorts, which Google does do quite often, or if this is a permanent feature. Stay tuned.

Update: Google’s David Krane, who runs corp. communications, responded to my query early this morning. He said that the incorporation of Froogle results into the main search page is “a test of sorts, yes…just an opportunity to further integrate Froogle with what folks are looking for on Google. It’s been up for a couple of weeks. We’ll have more data on the response after the new year.”

He offered to have me speak with the product manager in charge of this, and I will be talking to her at some point in the near future, give or take a Christmas holiday. Thanks for the quick reply, David!

Search IPO in Hong Kong

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HC Intl. Inc., a provider of “business information through trade catalogs and yellow pages directories, search engine services, and television and print periodicals in China” went public Weds., and shares were nearly 10 times oversubscribed. The IPO roared out of the gate, and closed 34% higher than its opening, on a weak market day. IDG Ventures, based here, held nearly 20% of the company pre-IPO.

Second Tier Players Strengthen

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MediaPost reports that top members of the team behind Sprinks, which Google recently purchased and essentially folded into AdWords (why?see here), have landed at Kanoodle. Kanoodle also got a round of funding, and opened an office in NYC. They have a keyword search product, and will probably add contextual and local advertising products next. It’s a sign of the robust market around paid search, and a good thing that companies besides Overture and Google can continue to thrive.