free html hit counter January 2004 - Page 8 of 12 - John Battelle's Search Blog

DNA Search. Yes, Really.

By - January 14, 2004

I can’t – or don’t want to – make that much sense of this. But…this search engine lets you search for family connections through DNA matches. This is very sci-fi, but it’s also very real. As the site says: “Many thousands of people have tested to find family connections as well as family origins. Since then, other labs have entered this market, and the number of tested individuals is growing as the use of DNA is becoming more and more accepted as an important tool for family research, enhancing traditional genealogy research methods.

In order to allow people that have tested with the different companies to make their results available for comparison, Family Tree DNA is offering Ysearch as a free public service.”

The searchable genome. I sense Cory Doctorow or Denise Caruso might have smart things to say about this. Thanks to Research Buzz, which does a fine job of grokking the engine, for the refer.

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Yahoo Earnings: Fair to Good

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Yahoo announced its earnings after hours today, profits were inline with analysts expectations and revenues were a bit higher than expectations. The stock sank a bit in after hours trading, apparently on concerns over TAC (traffic acquisition costs) – a metric that is a relatively new concept for Yahoo. Overture, which as we all know was purchased by Yahoo late last year, lives in the world of TAC – the costs associated with splitting advertising revenue between the ad service (Overture) and the portal (Yahoo). Increasingly, Overture was in a no win situation, as it had to give more and more of its margin up to its partners. Now Yahoo is in the same business, and analysts, used to pure revenues, have to grok Overture’s more complicated model. A good summary of this is in Jim Hu’s Cnet piece posted yesterday.

Another Not-News Story About Search

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Wired News rounds up the usual suspects (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft) today, going so far as to quote Danny saying “this is not news.” More proof that anything related to Google gives editors the urge to assign a story. However, one can always find something of note buried in me-too news – for example:

According to Kelsey Group program director Gerg Sterling, ‘2004 is going to be the Year of the Search’…”

2004?!! I better get my book done and quick….

Also…

When analytics firm Nielsen/NetRatings last measured search habits in March 2003, the company found that the number of unique visitors to Yahoo Search trailed Google by a mere 10 percent.

That’s less of a gap than I thought.

Now Searchable: Your Rental Car

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One of the purposes of my book is to expand the concept of what “search” means in everyday life. We’ve come to think that search = Google, and Google = search. But what of luggage? Of inventory? Of….Rental cars? In this disturbing NYT piece, Christopher Elliott tells the tale of Byngsoo Son, who rented a car in San Francisco, took a 12-day road trip with his family (Grand Canyon, Vegas, etc), and got a bill for over $3,400. Why? He crossed state lines, which he didn’t realize triggered a $1-a-mile clause in his contract. How did the car company know? Payless (oh, the irony!) had a GPS unit and “telematics” installed in the car, and was tracking its movements. In other words, they could search for the car at any point in its journey, so they knew when it triggered the Make-A-Shitload-of-Money clause. Did they call the hapless Son, and let him know that he might consider buying a used BMW instead? Of course not! Ah, the power of search….

The Dude Abides…or…Dudester

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Remember The Big Lebowski? No? Well, the main character, played perfectly by Jeff Bridges, was named “The Dude.” He lived, loafed and bowled in LA, circa the late 90s. I’m not sure if the movie inspired “Dude, Check This Out!”, a new web-based application I found via Boing Boing, but it certainly seems so. While they have picked Charles Atlas as their icon, I think they’d do better with Bridges’ character. In any case, the Dude (that’s what they call themselves) is a recommendation engine of sorts. How it works:

“You can use the Dude to store cool links that you find. Once you store something, you can send it to others, both inside and outside the Dude universe….

Your collection of cool links is anonymously related to other link collections in the Dude database, and the Dude then suggests other links to you. It’s sort of like the Amazon suggestion engine for books based on “people who bought this book also bought…”, but for links instead. Cool, eh?….

Item suggestions are connected to a profile, so as you discover new information, you’ll also connect with new people. It’s social networking with a purpose: You connect with others because you share interests.”

I continue to believe, until someone convincingly argues otherwise, that RSS-cum-Feedsharing-cum-personal newsreading will ultimately take off when a great recommendation engine is grafted onto a great feed aggregator, then married to some third cousin of social networking. Amazon+Feedster+NetNewsWireLite+Friendster. Or something. The Dude points in that direction.

Broadband – Your Estimates May Vary

By - January 13, 2004

I’ve been watching as the predictions for broadband go higher and higher, and now this….Jupiter claims broadband home penetration in the 35% range in 2004. And for high income households, it soars way above that, to nearly 50%.

PS – My ISP went down today, till now. Sorry for the light posting day…

Features, Features…To What End?

By - January 12, 2004

It seems every day Google, and now Yahoo as well, adds more features to its search – first it was phone numbers , then tracking packages, then patents, now it’s whois, flights, UPC codes, VINs, and God knows what else. Read a few pages of Google Hacks, and you’ll realize, you never use even 2% of Google’s power, and, most likely, you never will.

This leads me to wonder, where is this all going? I mean, the fact is, most searchers simply don’t use advanced search features *at all* – not even simple operators like quotes (” black jaguar” cat) or negative inclusion (jaguar -cat). So why are these search sites loading up on features that, honestly, nearly all their users will never take advantage of? Do they think searcher’s habits are going to change? I doubt it. I’d be interested in why you these features are being added with such abandon. Just because they can? Maybe they think folks will be building applications on top of the search platform, or will they do it themselves? Are they expecting that a layer of expert searchers will develop who peddle intermediary services (ie Google Answers)? I mean, I can get as excited as the next guy about the addition of the tilde operator or the “*” function, but….it feels like there is something in aggregate I am missing. Must be the varathane on the floor in the next room, keeping me from grokking the grand plan in all this. Help me out!

Beyond the Browser Again…

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Cnet’s Stephanie Olsen notes that several portals are considering following Google into the taskbar world…effectively increasing pressure on MSFT to get its Longhorn act together. This is a significant threat to the mindspace that Windows occupies: If Windows becomes a layer that is built upon by others…where is the margin for Gates & Co? Hence their massive efforts to get into search