free html hit counter April 2004 - Page 2 of 11 - John Battelle's Search Blog

Lycos Up For Grabs, Will Diller Re-engage?

By - April 28, 2004

logo_lycos.gifCnet reports that Lycos has retained Lehman to advise the company on the sale of its US assets. Cnet claims a possible price of $200 million. That’d be a bargain, a far cry from the billions Barry was willing to offer back in the good old days…

Diller would not need the traffic, though it never hurts. What he does need is integrative search technology. And on that count, Lycos is not a strong player. Side note to Wired News folks: If you’re looking to do something new, you know how to get in touch with me…

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Good God, Let's Get On WIth It Already

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Is anyone else sick of all the Google IPO stuff? Until the S-1 or Form 10 drops, I promise I will no longer post on the IPO. I’m past the point of saturation, and I sense the rest of the world is too. As my friend John Heilemann pointed out to me yesterday, it’s like the NFL draft. At the end of the day, what matters is the execution on the field. The draft is a sideshow.

Talk of the Nation

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logo_nprI’ll be on “Talk of the Nation” shortly talking about – what else – the Google IPO. Streaming audio will be up in about four hours (6 pm EST) I’m told. Other guests include Steven Levy and Lauren Weinstein.

Enterprise Search (Yaawwwwnnn)

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appliance2Oh, I know, I’m not big on enterprise search, it puts me to sleep. But to be honest, it was the enterprise that got me into this game, nearly 20 years ago, at a now defunct Macintosh weekly called MacWeek. We covered “MVBs” – Macintosh Volume Buyers, and my best sources were big corporate buyers at Anderson and the University of Texas. These guys saw all the cool shit early, and then blabbed about it to me. Our fearless executive editor was a fellow named Dan Farber, who now runs editorial at ZDNet. Anyway, Dan emailed me yesterday and asked what I thought of enterprise search, which is clearly one of the most overlooked stories in search. (His view on it is now up, here). It made me think, and I realized that in fact, enterprise search will probably rise again, and end up being one of the coolest things in search in the next few years. Why? Because it sucks so badly now, fixing it will be the kind of 10X revelation we had when we moved from Yahoo to Google in 1998-99.

Germane to that, here’s an interview in the E-commerce Times with Google enterprise search chief Dave Girouard that’s interesting.

The funny part is it’s easier to find box scores from the 1957 World Series than it is to find last quarter’s sales presentation in the enterprise. While Web search has gotten really good, enterprise search has stagnated, and that’s why we really believe it’s a problem that needs to be solved and that Google has a unique set of capabilities to solve it.”

When Google goes public, and it seems that this is most certainly a when, rather than an if, it will have to grow. And once it’s hit the plateau of consumer facing businesses, it will turn to the corporate IT market (it’s already focused on the problem and is cranking up that focus). That market is still nascent, and there are buckets of money there (just ask Microsoft or FAST.) Mark my words, boring as it might seem, corporate search will be a big deal. And…there will be interesting implications w/r/t transparency and the like once all those corporate documents are discovered by the internal crawler.

Search Engines and the DMCA: Don't Be Evil

By - April 26, 2004

From time to time you might note, if you are really paying attention, that results on Google have been removed due to the DMCA, in particular a clause known as “Safe Harbor” – it has to do with supposed copyright infringement. If and when you run across such results, Google posts a notice at the bottom of the page informing you, and linking to the DMCA request that led to the result being pulled from Google’s index. This is a very fine example of Google being a good corporate citizen, but Joe Hall has a good suggestion for refinement: show this disclaimer at the top of the page, not at the bottom, where many won’t see it.

Also on this issue, the Virginia Journal of Law and Techweighs in with a paper entitled “Application of the DMCA Safe Harbor Provisions to Search Engines.” Why do you care? Well, this paper concludes that “the burden of complying with the safe harbor procedures should not be placed on search engines. Given these concerns, a better alternative would be for Congress to grant search engines complete immunity from contributory liability for copyright infringing activities by third parties.”

To reach its conclusion, the paper argues that “Internet service providers who receive notifications from copyright owners about allegedly infringing content must remove or disable access to that content in order to remain immune from claims for contributory liability. In response to such notifications, search engines have begun to remove links to allegedly infringing content from their search results. Unfortunately, application of the DMCA safe harbor provisions to search engines is problematic. Key portions of the statute refer to “subscribers” and “account holders,” making their application to search engines unclear because search engines typically do not have subscribers or account holders. Also, the lack of a subscription relationship between search engines and alleged infringers seems to make search engines more likely than other types of service providers to remove content overzealously in response to notifications.”

If you’re still with me, then you may realize what I’m about to say – yup, in the near future, most search engines *will* have subscribers and account holders. A9 already does, as does Yahoo, indirectly. Hate to say it, but this paper is already out of date, even if I agree with its conclusion.

(thanks, JD).

A Tale of Two Googles

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26GOOG.coverartxlAnother (this is the third in two days) big NYT piece on Google, this one is from Saul Hansell, with great artwork (see left). Saul explores the debate between staying private and going public. And it had this tidbit, which I am embarassed to say I did not know:

Google has hardly been lazy working to manage the timing of an eventual offering. Early on, it split itself into two companies, Google Inc. and Google Technologies, so that each would have fewer than 500 employees, according to a person who had been close to Google. That was important because the S.E.C. requires companies with 500 shareholders and assets greater than $10 million to file financial statements and most of the other information they would have to disclose in a public share offering.

Early in 2003, the two companies were merged, in effect setting the date of April 29, 2004, as the deadline for Google to make the required disclosure. (The law requires a public filing 120 days after the close of a company’s fiscal year, in this case April 29.)

I wondered how they got away with having so many shareholders for so long. Dooh!

Biz Mag Round Up

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Read a bit over the weekend. First, the B’week cover package timed for the IPO is entirely reconstituted pablum. You’ve read this piece before, don’t bother. However, there is an interview with Page online, here, worth reviewing if you’re into that kind of stuff. Best quotes:

Q: Where is search today on an evolutionary scale?
A: People have consistently underestimated the size and importance of search. It’s a very, very large space of technologies, usage, and information. We’ve gone from 30 million to over 3 billion documents in just a small number of years. There’s going to be a lot of commercial activity in this space, a lot of companies doing things that are going to be very valuable.

Q: Competitors want to build search that simultaneously queries an individual’s local computer, e-mail archives, as well as the Internet. Is that something Google aims to do?
A: Our mission is to organize the world’s information. Clearly, the more information we have when we do a search, the better it’s going to work. There are all sorts of details involved in different kinds of products, including privacy issues. I’d expect us over time to have access to more information.

diller2Second, there was a big cover story on Diller and IAC last week, in the same issue of Fortune as the Moritz piece I blogged a few days ago (sub required past first page on both). The piece was written by Bethany McLean, who is credited with breaking the Enron story. And while I was particularly interested in how IAC – a non-centralized, non-consumer facing company built on a confederacy of otherwise unconnected brands – competes with centralized, software-and-analytics driven companies like Yahoo and Amazon, Bethany did not address those issues. There’s a fine history of Diller and IAC, trademark analysis of IAC’s numbers, almost reverential profiles of IAC execs, and classic Fortune hyping of a potential “gotcha” (“Cover tag: “What’s real and what’s fantasy?”!). But there’s no gotcha.

The piece does have clues to what I think will drive IAC’s future. In the last portion of the story, Diller talks about “eventual synergies” in his operating businesses. I think the company’s long term fortunes will turn on the timeline of these “eventual” synergies. So… what drives synergies between lines of business online? Yup, search. Not to bang the search drum too loudly, but, the core asset IAC lacks most is search – a hole the Fortune piece missed, for the most part, though Diller does rue his loss of Lycos years ago. I certainly believe that regret is heartfelt. ” Those dopes!” he says of the folks who fought him on the Lycos deal. “We were going to wire all out commerce to the No. 3 search engine at the time when habits were just changing. Our company would have been so far advanced!” Looking at what Yahoo, eBay, MSN, AOL, Amazon, and Google are trying to do now, I have to say I agree.

Markoff: Details on Google Filing; Rivlin: Who WIll Get Rich

By - April 25, 2004

IPOInteresting: Markoff has a source (link is CC Times, not NYT, it’s not reg required) who claims Google will not file an S-1 this week (the standard IPO prospectus) but rather will file … well…on that the story is not clear. But something. I believe the only thing they could file other than an S-1 is a Form 10, which private companies file when they surpass 500 shareholders and 10 million in assets. Markoff’s story does not say that will happen, but that’s the implication. There’s some good stuff in this short piece:

Google, the Web search company that has developed a huge popular following around the world, is expected to take a tentative first step next week toward a future public stock offering, a person close to the company said Friday. But it is likely to stop short of filing a formal registration to sell shares, he said……

At an employee meeting last month, the company’s executives stated that Google had embarked on the path toward a public offering. They did not give any information, however, about the possible timing of the effort.

Those close to the company say that Google’s top executives are under pressure to move ahead soon because of fears that it may damage employee morale if they don’t move ahead quickly to give them an opportunity to turn their shares and options into real wealth.

But from inside and outside the company, there have also been repeated rumblings that the founders of the company and its outside investors are still debating the value of an immediate public offering….

Google’s founders, however, are leery, Silicon Valley insiders say, of giving up control of their firm as well as the operational and cultural changes that a public offering might bring about.

The company has considered the possibility of two classes of stock, they say, a route that would permit the founders to retain tight control, but would also reduce the value of a public offering substantially….

This has led to differences between the company’s venture backers and founders, said a person at one of the venture firms that backs Google.

“I wouldn’t call it tensions, but there are differences,” he said. “I think our attitude is, ‘Let’s not be too cute.’ “

Also, the Times runs a Page One rundown of who will get rich in the IPO. After reading it, I felt…a bit queasy, and I don’t know why. (No, I don’t own any shares!).