free html hit counter March 2004 | John Battelle's Search Blog

Fishing For Dipsie

By - March 31, 2004

lockupI won’t get into the whole song and dance behind Dipsie. I posted on the company back in early November, and for a while it was one of the most searched terms on the site, as it seemed to promise That Which We All Long For, which is to say, The Next Google.

I spent some time over the past few months talking to folks about Dipsie, and have in fact been quite close to posting Real News about the company at one point or another. But as with many startups working through the inevitable kinks, the Real News never quite materialized. Now, Gary posts that Dipsie has told the Chicago Sun Times that it will launch its public beta on May 10. There’s no other news in this piece, but it does reflect the bravado of founder Jason Weiner. As Gary says, let’s see what happens in May. We can all hope, of course. But me, I’m a skeptic. Prove me wrong, Jason; I’d love to be wrong….

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A Month of Search Patents

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Gary has his patent roundup posted, and it has more interesting stuff.

There’s a patent application for serving ads in email – from employees of Google. Overture gets a patent for search sets. Other search related patents go to Seibel, AT&T, Yahoo, IBM, et al.

My favorite: “Method of doing business by identifying customers of competitors through world wide web searches of job listing databases” – from IBM.

The Top Keywords of the Week

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Another tool for you zeitgeist freaks, Wordtracker will tell you the top 500 search keywords updated daily (it comes as a ticker up top). It’s an interesting reminder of the real world – “prom hairstyles” makes the top 15….

NewsMap

By - March 30, 2004

newsmap Via boing boing, a very cool map visually relating what stories the newsmedia is covering, a hack on GoogleNews. You can toggle by country, pretty impressive. More on the NewsMap here. This reminds me of Map of the Market, which is now several years old but still cool too.

GlobalSpec: Domain Specific Search and the Semantic Web

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GlobalSpecSearchEngineLogo I better watch out, or I’ll draw fire from Clay Shirky soon. But much of the debate over the semantic web clears my head by quite a distance – I’m more interested in what works and why. I just got off the phone with the GlobalSpec team -Jeffrey Killeen, Chairman & CEO, and John Schneiter, President. It seems to me that GlobalSpec is one of those innovations in search that works – at least for its intended audience – by adding context, organization, and tagging to a limited dataset. Sounds semantic to me.

GlobalSpec is a domain specific (or vertical) search engine. It got its start eight years ago as a classic IT play – take all the catalog-based information about engineering parts – sensors, transducers, etc. – and roll it into a huge, cross-referenced database, which you then distribute over the web. Make money by connecting customers to parts suppliers. Simple.

Over the years GlobalSpec has evolved into a robust community of a million or so engineering types who use it to find and spec parts. That alone is pretty cool (I mean, a million engineers!). But the coolest stuff was just launched: They call it “The Engineering Web” and it’s a domain-specific crawl of the web for engineering information. And not only have they crawled the web (about 100K engineering related sites, so far), they’ve also surfaced invisible web databases not found in mainstream search engines – patent and standards sites, for example, which are walled off by registration and business considerations. Anyone can use the service – it’s not limited to registered users. In essence, GlobalSpec has built a portal that drives traffic and intent through their original database business, in the process building an intelligent island of engineering information that lives in the public sphere. Of course this means they can add AdWord-like functionality, which of course they are working on.

My thought: If only cars.com was this cool.

OK, you don’t usually spend a lot of time comparing accelerometer specifications, so why should you care? Well, GlobalSpec points the way toward the creation of hundreds of powerful vertical search engines, engines which, because they are limited in domain and exclusive by nature, can in fact offer extremely cool tools to find exactly what you want. (This idea is of course not new, nor mine, but still…) They also will create important data mines of user behavior – GlobalSpec has the parametric details of every search ever made against every product in its database – which is a goldmine for companies who are trying to fathom what the market wants. Think about that for a minute…let it sink it. Yup, Battelle’s on his Database of Intentions horse again.

I wish for the day when there’s a GlobalSpec for every imaginable domain, and a meta search engine which intelligently crawls those verticals…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Here’s why GlobalSpec points to some exciting developments in search. Because of its limited domain, GlobalSpec can use relatively simple keyword-based algorithms to surface lists of ideas or terms related to your search. This allows you to refine your search in ways that simply don’t scale in the Googleverse. These related ideas are inferred from the results of your initial query. For example, if you search on “aerodynamics“, you will get “aircraft , Flight Mechanics, Helicopter Aerodynamics, computational fluid dynamics and Theoretical Aerodynamics” as related searches.

It’s clustering without the crappy results. This stuff really only works when you are living in a gated community of sorts – out on the big bad web, there are simply too many false positives. (I’d also point out that domain specific vertical search engines in more consumer/commercial domains – such as cars.com or Expedia – are further polluted by the commercial interests of the industry they serve. They could learn a lot from the GlobalSpec approach.)

The GlobalSpec guys outlined a useful trio of attributes shared by domain-specific search engines like GlobalSpec. First is organization. This is the basic premise of domain specific engines – through organization comes efficient search. Schneiter calls his engine “parametric” – everything in the index is organized against the standards and parameters of the engineering field, making “parametric search” a reality. Second is context. Domains engines are by definition contextual, but GlobalSpec has a drop down menu next to its search box that allows you to contextualize the search even more, across a bunch of subdomains like Products & Manufacturing, Company Name, Application Notes (engineers care about this), Suppliers, and Standards. And third is access. Vertical search products, by their exclusive nature, can provide domain-specific access to the invisible web, in fact, they can enable commercial transactions that otherwise would be impossible (as GlobalSpec does, see here – at the bottom is the option to purchase an engineering standard from a company with a deep database of standards, a database which cannot be accessed via mainstream search engines). To that end, I’d argue that a fourth attribute of vertical search engines is commerce – these engines enable serious, highly efficient closed loop markets.

Come to think of it, Topix feels a lot like GlobalSpec, but for local news/advertising instead of engineering. And so on…

FWIW, GlobalSpec is backed by Warburg Pincus, and will be profitable this year. The company will not reveal revenues but say they are in a “scale position.” Worth watching….

Eric S. Interview in WSJ

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ericsCouldn’t get onto the WSJ page yesterday, so missed this interview with Eric – and it’s behind a paid wall in any case. Then I noticed this free link in Beal’s blog today. Eric gives some insight into his management style, the possible IPO, and how decisions are made.

Google Lawyers Busy: New Lawsuit Over Location Search

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digitalenvoy_02When I met with Eric a year or so ago, he said that Google had gotten to the size that draws lawsuits, and he expected his legal department, already robust, would have to get even bigger. He was right. Add another suit to the pile: Digital Envoy is suing Google for violation of a licensing agreement.

Details from CNET:

Several years ago, the two companies struck a licensing agreement allowing Google to use “geo-location” technology invented and developed by Digital Envoy, said Timothy Kratz, a lawyer with the firm of McGuireWoods. The technology uses the Internet Protocol (IP) address of a computer visiting a particular Web site to determine the nearest city in order to direct specific advertisements to the computer’s user.

The license allows Google to use that technology on its own site, but not on third-party sites, Kratz said. “If an advertiser is signed up under the massive AdWords program, and if its ad runs on (the Web site of) USA Today, then it’s a misappropriation of our technology.

Round up of search stories at CNET here.

Case Wants AOL Back

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That’s what this NY Daily News story claims. Now that would be something. I think the Time Warner guys would sooner run AOL into the ground than give it back to Case and risk his turning it around, and making them look hapless twice.