free html hit counter April 2004 | Page 7 of 11 | John Battelle's Search Blog

The Politics of SERPs

By - April 13, 2004

NYT today has an overview of the ongoing JewWatch.com case. The case reveals the bind Google faces when asked to remove offensive search results, in this case, the first result for the word “Jew” is an anti-semitic site. I am sure that does not leave many “feeling lucky.”

The company, which is based in Mountain View, Calif., said it had no plans to remove the site from the search results list because it trusts its automated program to rank Web sites accurately. The search engine has been listing “Jewwatch.com” as the first-ranked site for three years.

“We find this result offensive, but the objectivity of our ranking function prevents us from making any changes,” said David Krane, a spokesman for Google, adding that an exception is made only in cases where a site is illegal. Mr. Krane said the company has, for example, removed sites from its rankings that promote pedophilia, which is illegal.

The issue here, it seems to me, is the fact that Google is taken as the first and last word on what our culture believes to be important w/r/t any given term. That jewwatch.org is the first result for “jew” seems counterintuitive to nearly everyone, and clearly offensive. But somehow it has gained the highest ranking – it is a directory, with hundreds of links. Perhaps that is one reason why…and this controversy is only giving it more links…an interesting phenomenon. (I’ve not linked to it in this post for this reason).

Links into Jewwatch.com, according to Google.

According to Technorati.

Apparently, some folks are organizing a counter Google bomb, by linking to the wikipedia entry, which currently ranks at #2. There you go, I just added my pagerank to the cause…

Update: Google has posted an explanation of why this occurs here…that they responded so quickly is cool, I think.

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What Does Google Know Trademark Lawyers Don't?

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They must know something, because late last week they notified their advertisers that it was open season on trademark keyword buys (CNET story here). Yes, this is the long simmering issue that is still in the courts – trademark owners don’t want third parties bidding on their trademarked terms (the most well-known case is Playboy).

In any case, this is a bold move, akin to “waving a red flag at the bull” as one source told CNET. But is it? At the end of the day, the law favors clarity and consistency, if it can. Seems to me this move forces clarity: It’s all or nothing. Google is, by its action, declaring what it thinks is the appropriate approach – let the market decide. LImiting *some* keywords forces the courts into a never ending cycle of litigation around where the boundaries w/r/t fair trademark use are.In the current political climate, such an approach will probably prove futile in the long run. Google is playing this move against what they believe is the end game, and they may not be far off in their estimation of the courts.

More Open Source Search: Mozdex

By - April 12, 2004

mozlogoMozdex launched recently, it’s an open source search engine that uses DMOZ as its seed corn.

Cool: Every result has an “explain” button that shows the ranking code. Now that’s interesting.

It’s a tad slow, and new so it’s incomplete, but I hope takes off…and I hope Nutch will as well. (My 2.0 column on Nutch here…)

UPDATE: Gary, ever alert, notices this:

A quick check shows that the owner of GetHitsfromUS.com owns the
Mozdex.com domain.

http://www.whois.sc/mozdex.com

This may be a pure ad play, in other words. More when I know for sure.

Cramer: Google IPO Proves System Is Corrupt

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traderwoesA great Cramerian rant on why the Google IPO could be a “train wreck.”

Excerpts:

And Google could be worth every penny, at least the pennies that the investment bankers are pitching it for, although it may not be worth what it ultimately ends up trading for. That’s because the disparity between where the bankers price the IPO and where it opens could be the largest gulf in the history of IPOs, in part because neither the government nor the industry has done a thing to fix a system that broke down and descended into corruption and stupidity during the dot-com heyday. Put simply, Google could end up being the biggest IPO, and the biggest IPO train wreck, in history….

When you combine the fervid nature of the Google fans with the fact that all Google fans own personal computers attached to the Web and therefore can access their broker with a keystroke, you get the potentially toxic combination of tons of uninformed buyers clamoring for any piece of Google stock that can be had, either on the deal—unlikely, given that the process favors the big boys—or after it starts trading on the open market. That means Google could have one of those bizarre trading patterns we saw at the height of the bubble in 1998 and 1999, when the bankers brought the deal at $25 and the stock opened for trading at three or four times higher than that…..

Google, the company, may be the real deal, but Google the stock may just show us a return to the bubble days that we all thought had mercifully been put behind us. Or, to put it another way, Google, now synonymous with “to search,” could, the moment it opens for trading, become synonymous with “to fleece.”

Findory Featured…

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findory Newsearch engine Findory is profiled in this Seattle Times article. Like Topix, this engine creates personalized news pages based on your interests. Findory watches what your read and presents related stories. The founder, Greg Linden, cut his teeth in Amazon’s personalization foundry…

Search Radio

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logo_npr Many have pointed me to this NPR series on search…I was interviewed for it but have no idea if my ramblings made the cut…

Microsoft: Fat around the Middle?

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msftgatesThis BusinessWeek article, which I missed but an alert reader pointed me to, takes the thesis that MSFT is facing middle age with uncertainty.

The piece runs down the threats: Linux, slow growth, bloated core product that hasn’t had an update in years, anti-trust suits….then runs down how they are reacting.

So check this out: They keep a list.

While Ballmer drives day-to-day operations, the 48-year-old founder is taking personal control of the technology charge. He has put together what is now called “The List” around Microsoft’s Redmond (Wash.) campus. It’s a priority ranking of 50 or so initiatives that cut across product lines and are critical to making the next generation of products successful — everything from security software and the user interface to Web search and telephony. The List is so important that each item has been assigned to one top executive, who is responsible for driving it throughout the company. “We’re using a lot of IQ to go after these things,” says Gates.

Sound familiar? Yup, that’s how Google has been doing it for years.

Also interesting, BizWeek seems to have a scoop on what’s going on with Longhorn and the integrated search/file system:

The most important change (to Longhorn) is to the file system — the way information is stored on the PC. Microsoft is creating a new design not just for Windows but for all of its products that makes it easier to retrieve photos, documents, songs, and e-mail. That’s important as users stash more and more files on their computers. If Microsoft gets it right, it will be simple, for example, for users to zip through thousands of pictures and sort them by date or by the people in them.

But Longhorn won’t do everything Gates first envisioned. BusinessWeek has obtained copies of two internal e-mails showing that Microsoft is cutting some of the most ambitious technologies to get the product out the door. For example, Longhorn will now ship with a scaled-back version of the file system. The current plan, in practical terms, means people will be able to search their PCs for documents and information related to each other, but they won’t be able to reach into corporate servers for similar files.

I wonder, does this mean web-wide search integrated into Longhorn will be delayed?

And on the mid life crisis meme – Google may not be worried, but beware a company in midlife crisis – it might just try to buy the equivalent of a $100,000 sports car. And MSFT can afford some very nice cars….

(Thanks, Rohit)

The Font of Tragedy

By - April 10, 2004

Our culture often counters success with the rebuke of pridefulness, the font of tragedy. News.com reports from a Stanford MBA panel, where a Google exec (Salar Kamangar) gave the reporter, search beat veteran Stefanie Olsen, the sense that he was “downplaying the looming threat of search competition from Microsoft, saying his company doesn’t expect to see a credible product from the software giant for years.”

I dunno if this was a misinterpretation, but…this reminds me of what Marc Andreesseen said lo so many years ago (the famous quote where Windows was dismissed as buggy device drivers…). Also, new Google recruit Anna Patterson dismissed MSFT’s search in this story a month ago. A trend? Probably not. But it’s not beyond many to call it so.

I'll Take Mesothelioma for $100

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Lawyers lick their chops at the chance to prosecute a mesothelioma case. That’s why the rare form of cancer caused by asbestos is a high-value keyword. Apparently the term has hit $100 a click, according to this UPI report.