free html hit counter May 2004 - Page 4 of 6 - John Battelle's Search Blog

More S-1 Grokking: Google Purchases Ignite Logic, Inc.

By - May 10, 2004

IgniteLogoMedIAstute Searchblog reader Rohit Khare points me to this odd passage on page 77 of the Google S1:

2003 Equity Incentive Plan
Our 2003 Equity Incentive Plan was assumed by us in connection with our acquisition of Ignite Logic, Inc. in April 2004. At April 23, 2004, options to purchase a total of  (blank)  shares of Class A common stock were….

Well, the purchase was in fact covered by a local paper (the firm is based near Sacramento, Ca.).

What is Ignite Logic, Inc.? It’s a startup which helps law firms set up web sites. But why buy them? Hey, if you have good tech and processes to get a law firm’s site up and running, one might imagine it just might scale to the entire SMB market (and beyond). Recall my “Incubation Platform” post – about how Google might leverage its platform to let others build on top of their infrastructure? You thought I was smoking something, eh? Nope.

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Blogger Redux

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relaunch_ufosCongrats to the team there, which has shipped a major upgrade. Details on new features here. Main stuff: Comments are enabled, a new “profile” page for Bloggers (watch that space, will be important in the building of meta-Web stuff), stronger permalink support, conditional tagging, email blogging, etc.

End of Week Newsletter/Conference Plug

By - May 08, 2004

Hey Folks – Late Monday I’ll send out invites to the conference to all those who sign up to the newsletter at left, or you can still request an invite by heading here. That’s when I’ll send out the weekly Searchblog newsletter as well. Have a great weekend!

Aristotle and the Knowledge Web

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hillisJohn Brockman republishes a four-year old essay from Danny Hillis positing “Aristotle,” a tutor program built around a “knowledge web” (not unlike the semantic web, but more specialized) which might revolutionize how we learn. Many luminaries weigh in on the concept. Not light reading, but interesting, and very search-driven. Neal Stephenson fans will hear an echo of “The Primer” from The Diamond Age.

Neat PageRank Hack

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ProogleA fellow by the name of Stephen Morrison has hacked up “Proogle,” a Google skin that returns Google’s results but adds in PageRank scores. The site is linked to what I presume is Stephen’s home site, Webmaster Brain” (no contact info on his site, but a number of neat tools are there, including a link popularity tester).

I’m told Proogle has gotten quite popular among the webmaster community, as a result, I’ll wager won’t be up for long – it more likely than not generates more than 1000 searches a day, a violation of Google’s terms of service. (The site even implores: “Google, Please Don’t Sue!”) This is yet another example of interesting hacks built on top of Google that, in the end, will probably end up on the dustbin due to popularity. Another recent example is Social Grid. I did hear back from the fellow behind that site, who admits he has yet to “ask permission” to build on top of Google. His credo: Code now, ask for forgiveness later.

Thanks to Aaron Wall of SEO Book/ SEO Index for pointing this out to me.

From the Ephemeral to the Eternal

By - May 06, 2004

OlduvaiFoot
(Part 1 of …?)
This is an idea I’m starting to rough out. As I said earlier, I will be testing your patience over the coming weeks as I do this more frequently. These essays are not intended to be the “book,” but rather sketches that lead to the book. (Lord knows, I can’t assume a general readership will be nearly as forgiving as you hardy souls have proven to be.)

I’m interested in what I’ll call the shift from the ephemeral to the eternal. Gmail is a good example of this, as are Plaxo, social networks, and most ecommerce sites that keep profiles of our browsing and buying habits. And search – in particular, the approach to search that A9 has taken – is perhaps the most interesting and difficult to classify expression of the trend.

In the past few years, a good portion of our digitally mediated behavior – be it in email, search, or the relationships we have with others – has become eternal – in other words, recorded and preserved by one entity or another, usually commercial in nature. And as this information has become eternal, we, as creators of that information, have lost a large degree of control over how that information is used and in what context. In fact, in many cases we have lost ownership of the information altogether – arguably before we even knew it existed in the first place. Whether this matters at all is worth debate – after all, how could we lose that which we never had? It’s not my goal to write a privacy screed here, nor take “evil corporations” to task. But it seems to me the issues raised by the ownership of our collective data exhaust are certainly worth raising and discussing, with a particular eye toward the Law of Unintended Consequences, if nothing else.

So cast yourself back to the pre web days, the “PC era” of 1985-1995. In this phase of the computing revolution, we brought our habitual presumptions to communication and discovery via the computer keyboard – we assumed (rightly or wrongly) that there was no permanent record of our actions on the computer. When we rummaged through our hard drives or, later, across LANs and WANs, we assumed the digital footprints we left behind – our clickstream exhaust, so to speak – were as ephemeral as a phone call – fleeting, passing, unrecorded. Why would it be anything but? Clickstreams had no value beyond the action they predicated, serving only as a means to an end of finding a file or passing along a message.

The same assumptions clothed our email. Sure, we understood that email might reside (briefly) on servers, but for years we assumed they were our emails, and the ISP or network over which they passed had no rights to examine or manipulate them, much less own them. (In fact, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 codified this sentiment into law, at least for private email). While the more sophisticated email user among us has grown to understand that the folly of this assumption in a corporate environment, the idea that email is an ephemeral medium is still widely held. Just this week Frank Quattrone, one of the technology sectors’ most powerful players and hardly a rube, was brought down by such a presumption.

But for most of us, the possibility of such negative consequences is remote, and I’d argue that most users still believe email is an intensely private and ephemeral form of communication. And this holds true even when that email lives on the servers of yahoo.com, hotmail.com, or gmail.com.

As for social networks, in the PC era the very idea that our relationships to others (our social network) or our relationships to goods and services (our commercial network) were anything but ephemeral was presumed: without the internet, how could it be otherwise? Sure, once in a long while someone got a hold of your calling card or your credit card slip, and your privacy and security were breached, but like email, the chances of this occurring were so minute as to be irrelevant . And before Friendster, “social networks” were simply records in your private contact database.

In short, before the web, we could pretty safely assume that our hard drive rummaging, our email, and our networking habits – in short, our clickstream – were ephemeral, known only to us (and soon forgotten by us, I’d wager). 
 
But as I’ve posted before, and as many have noted before me, as an internet culture we are steadily moving our ephemeral habits from the desktop to the web, and from our local control to the servers of corporations. (I was not surprised to learn yesterday that one in ten internet users have registered at a social network, for example, and one in five have visited one). The reason for this shift is simple: innovative companies have figured out how to deliver great services (and make money) by divining clickstream patterns, be it a underlying divination, like PageRank, or a more direct one, such as AdWords or Amazon’s recommendation system. And from a consumers’ point of view, there are also very simple and compelling reasons for this shift: services like search, Plaxo and Gmail make our lives easier, faster and more convenient. But as we move our data from the edges to the center, a question arises: Have our assumptions moved with our data?   

Brad Templeton, among many others, offers perhaps the most reasonable assessment of this question as it relates to Gmail (his conclusion: we need to revise our assumptions about privacy and ownership), but I’d argue that the issues he raises can be more broadly discussed in relation to search.

Search provides a framework for thinking not only about mail (what is it about Gmail that makes it really unique? It’s searchable…), but for our entire clickstream, which is fast becoming an asset – certainly to the individual, but in particular to the internet industry. Search drives clickstreams, and clickstreams drive profits. To profit in the internet space, corporations need access to clickstreams. And this, more than any other reason, is why clickstreams are becoming eternal. As we root around in the global information space, search has become our spade, the point of our inquiry and discovery. The empty box and blinking cursor presage your next digital artifact, the virgin blue link over which your mouse hovers will transform into one more footprint through this era’s Olduvain ash.

But once eternal, what then? Beyond commerce, what happens to our culture when the previously unknown becomes knowable, and, to ping Kevin Kelly, out of control? I’d love to hear what you think, I’d guess that the consequences are pretty far reaching.

(Part 2, coming soon: “Whose Data? – Examples of Clickstream Creation (A9, Furl, et al) and the Tricky Issues They Raise.” At least, I think that’s what is coming next…)

Info Porn

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From Comscore, via IP:

* SEARCH VOLUME: In total, Americans conduct between 3.0 and 3.5
billion searches per month. More than one billion of these searches are
typically conducted at Google. The average search engine user conducted 32
searches in February. The average Google user conducted 25 searches at the
engine, more than twice the average number of searches (12) conducted by
users of the top ten engines. (Source: comScore qSearch)

* SHARE OF SEARCH: In February, Google controlled approximately 35
percent of searches conducted at major search engines by U.S. Internet
users. Yahoo!, its closest competitor, conducted 30 percent of searches by
U.S. Internet users in February. Among worldwide Internet users (Anglophone
population), Google’s lead is even more dramatic, with the company
accounting for more than 43 percent of all searches. (Source: comScore
qSearch)

Share of Online Searches
February 2004
Source: comScore qSearch

U.S. Internet Users / Worldwide Internet Users
(Anglophone population)
Google Sites 34.7% / 43.3%
Yahoo! Sites 30.0% / 30.8%
MSN-Microsoft Sites 15.4% / 14.1%
Time Warner Network 15.0% / 7.1%
Ask Jeeves 1.9% / 1.7%
All Other 3.0% / 3.0%

* PENETRATION: Approximately 50 percent of all U.S. search engine
users conducted at least one search at Yahoo! in February, the highest
penetration of any search engine. Google ranked second, conducting at least
one search for 45 percent of all U.S. search engine users. (Source: comScore
qSearch)

* UNIQUE VISITORS: Combined, search sites reach more than 130 million
Americans or approximately 85 percent of all Internet users each month,
ranking Search/Navigation among the most popular categories on the Web.
Just over 65 million people visited Google sites in March 2004, an increase
of 23.5 percent versus March 2003. (Source: comScore Media Metrix)

Unique Visitors and Audience Reach
March 2004
Source: comScore Media Metrix
U.S. Home, Work and University Internet Users

Unique Visitors / Reach %
(000)

Total Internet Users 154,051 / 100
Search/Navigation Category 131,030 / 85.1

Google Sites 65,029 / 42.2
Yahoo! Search 59,755 / 38.8
MSN Search 48,912 31.8
AOL Proprietary Search 34,629 / 22.5
Ask Jeeves 17,524 / 11.4
Lycos Network Search 9,024 / 5.9

* PROPERTY BREAKDOWN: Below is a breakdown of traffic to Google’s
network of sites. With the March introduction of Froogle as one of the tabs
on the Google home page, traffic to this section of the site is likely to
increase quickly in the coming months. (Source: comScore Media Metrix)

Property Breakdown: Google Sites
March 2004
Source: comScore Media Metrix
U.S. Home, Work and University Internet Users

Unique Visitors
(000)

Google Sites 65,029
GOOGLE.COM 63,057
Google Web Search 58,494
Google Images 15,924
Google Directory 5,074
Google News 3,277
Google Groups 1,954
Froogle 749
BLOGSPOT.COM 3,382

An Aside…But…

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2004-05-05-inside-baseIf any of you are baseball fans…is there some way we can publicly protest this most short-sighted of developments? I mean, Spiderman ads on the fucking bases??? I know it’s getting harder and harder for advertisers to get their message out to large audiences, but…Spiderman ads on the fucking bases??? Quite possibly the stupidest thing I have seen from the marketing cartel in quite some time.

UPDATE: Happy day, they pulled it after one day of public comment! I think that qualifies it as a major fuckup, rather than a smart marketing play.

Google's Financials, In .xls Format

By - May 05, 2004

cnbc_logo.gif
A big thanks to CNBC Valley corresondent and Searchblog buddy Cory Johnson for this file (will download upon click), which takes all the financial information found in Google’s S1 filing and pours it into a handy spreadsheet form.

Cory has broken out Applied Semantics, the one acquisition with related financial information. As he says:

Google paid $41.5 million and 1,825,226 fully-vested shares, as well as
557,574 “fully-vested and unvested options” of Google stock valued at $60.9
million (that’d be $109 an option).