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Google Extends Syndication, Adds Site Flavor

By - June 20, 2004

Late to this one, life got in the way, but worthy of note nonetheless. Google late last week introduced two new offerings, Google AdSense for Search, and Site-Flavored Google Search. One is a commercial product, the latter a Labs project. Both give new tools to publishers which, through their adoption, extend Google’s reach into the web.

Full PR info is in extended entry.

labs_smNow, these are interesting products for a couple of reasons. From what I can tell, Site Flavored is the outgrowth of Google’s Kaltix acquisition. It allows a webmaster to tailor Google’s search results to a site’s own tendencies (so my site, for example, would bring search engine results as opposed to headhunters…). It seems a pretty blunt instrument for now (not instantly updated, categories are pretty general) but that will change with time. Site Flavored is yet another way for Google to get you registered into a Google relationship – a key strategic imperative (in fact, once you add site flavored search to your site, the logo google_kaltix_site_flavored_searchboxthat Google places on your site links to Google’s personalized search page). It’s another neat feature that will help get Google’s search results distributed across more of the web, and leverages the Google platform in a more robust manner.

Of course Google is already in the web platform biz – they serve AdSense to thousands of sites. Yup, true. And they are extending that with their other product, AdSense for Search. As far as I can tell (and I may get this wrong), this is a way of syndicating AdWords – their in house ad serving tech used on the main search site, and licensed to big partners like BellSouth and AOL – out to the masses. As Danny points out, this has been done before, but abandoned in the dot com bust.

I’ll be very interested to see how much uptake these products get.

Peter Adams (CTO Looksmart) weighs in on Site Flavored.

Wired News on the news….

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Find.com Launches, Raises My Eyebrows

By - June 18, 2004

FIND_small3Look at this, a new search site “for business professionals.” I’m not sure this will catch on, but it is a reflection of the trend toward vertical/domain specific search…Find.com.

So I head over there and do the typical vanity search – for “Searchblog.” After all, it’s business related content. And what do I see? Three of my postings are highlighted at the top as for sale by some company called “NetContent.” Hmm. *My* postings, for sale on Find.com. No one asked me. Hmmm.

Well this is interesting. In fact, with a little poking around, I see blog entries by all sorts of folks are “for sale,” as well as stuff by mainstream magazines like BusinessWeek. Note to NetContent: I’ll be calling.

ClickZ story.

The older, wiser Business.com.

Om Sees BlinkX

By - June 17, 2004

blinkX.gif Om Malik, who has a very good blog on all things telecom/bband and works at B2.0, reviews a new software tool that combines aspects of both desktop and web search called BlinkX. He’s over the moon about it, so watch this company…

A Morning With Danny Hillis

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hillisHave had a very productive couple of days recently on the book, talking at length with various folks who in one way or another have very unique views on the search world. Before I get to Tim Koogle, who I spoke to this morning, or Shana Fisher and Geoff Yang (yesterday afternoon), I wanted to talk about my visit with Danny Hillis.

On Tuesday I flew down to LA to visit with Danny, who founded Thinking Machines. After that he became an imagineer at Disney for five or so years (“The best ‘real job’ you can have,” he quipped). Danny has a million great ideas and is something of a polymath. He recently founded Applied Minds as a way to put that skill to work (he partnered with Bran Ferren, himself a scary smart polymath).

Danny has a lot of things to say about search, it’s an area he finds rich in implications, in particular as it relates to some of the long-term projects he’s involved in, such as the Clock of the Long Now. We spent some time riffing on the future of search, and its current limitations, but … I get ahead of myself. What I really thought was incredible was the playground Danny and Bran have created for themselves at Applied Minds.

You pull up to Applied Minds unimpressed. It’s in an industrial area of Glendale (who knew there even were industrial areas of Glendale?) – windowless one-story warehouses with nameplates like “Airfoil Distribution, Ltd” or “Light Plumbing Fixture Manufacturing, Inc.” Once inside the non-descript edifice, you’re greeted by a low-ceilinged version of an internet start up – the requisite espresso maker, late-modern furniture, flat-screen displays, etc. But really, nothing worth writing home about. In fact, the place felt a bit cramped and claustrophobic.

That all changed once Danny came out to meet me. After chit chatting for a few minutes, he took me to a small room – no wider than my outstretched arms – at the far end of which stood one of those classic red English phone booths. We stepped inside – a bit cramped – and Danny lifted the receiver and dictated a passphrase of some sort. Presto – the rear wall of the booth opened, and we stepped into – nerdvana.

wonka1From a cramped phone booth into massive pure-white-lit space two-stories high, adorned with all manner of things strange and beautiful. Over to one side stood the Terminator-like skeleton of a forty-foot dinosaur, it’s 15-foot pneumatic legs gleaming and exposed. Nearly blending into the walls, itself painted movie-set white, was a tricked out Hummer-like RV refitted as a communications/command center – complete with built-in kitchen and bedroom. The space was a great big project lab, with happy geeks combing over various assemblages of wiring, motors, processors and plans like ants on a summer picnic. It’s Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory for geeks.

Applied Minds works this way: Bram and Danny and any number of partners contract with Very Large Companies or Organizations to think outside the box and come up with solutions to problems they might have. The dinosaur, for example, was a solution to Disney’s problem of overlong lines for its rides (solution: make the non-ride portions of the park more interesting by having dinosaurs roaming the streets…). Danny and Bram have, in essence, created a lab where they get paid to think orthogonal to a problem, and invent/design/prototype just about any kind of solution they can dream up. I toured at least four massive warehouses full of projects (and they have more buildings up in SF), many of which I am bound to not report upon, but all followed this basic ethic: let’s imagine a new way to approach what otherwise is an intractable/frustrating/unglamorous business problem. Clients include GM, Herman Miller, and many others, including some defense contractors. The company employs a studio model, with only 50 full time staffers, but hundreds involved at any given time on dozens of projects.

So one can imagine when Danny and I did sit down to talk about search, we’d have an interesting conversation. Besides the fact that his designs for Thinking Machines are now de facto standards for platforms like Google, we ranged from his idea of Aristotle, a Primer like AI tutor, to creating an economy of ideas through a new kind of search infrastructure. It’s fun to live in the future for a while, after so much reporting in the past and present.

For the details of our talk, well, the book is coming along slowly but surely…

Ripping off Google?

By -

An astute reader points me to www.milfclan.com, which sounds a lot like a porn site, till you click on it, and get a perfect mirror of Google. For reasons neither he nor I can discern, it seems they are ripping off Google’s HTML. Huh.

Update: Readers have pointed out that the site was or perhaps is still a torrent site. From a reader:

Tried to leave this as a comment, oddly enough, MT refused due to
‘questionable content’. Maybe the URL was in an MT-Blacklist config?

Anyway, http://latest.milfclan.com is a popular Bitorrent resource for
the latest TV show downloads. They’re probably using a DNS entry
pointing to Google as some kind of obfuscation tactic?

Due to the semi-legitimate nature of the site (I pay for my TV chanels,
so I don’t see a problem downloading shows), please don’t quote me
directly if you post about this.

A New Boing Boing

By - June 15, 2004

bbhead10x.gif I’m proud to say that Boing Boing has launched a new design, one that incorporates sponsors and a cleaner look. I was down visiting with Danny Hillis today (man, talk about mind blowing) and I was very happy to hear that he reads Boing Boing regularly. My role with Boing Boing is the equivalent of “band manager” – I helped them round up the wonderful sponsors – Wired, Google (Blogger), and O’Reilly – and work out the details of how they can take the site to the next phase of it’s ongoing evolution (“brain candy for happy mutants since 1988!”). Take a look!

Huh. Google Buys Into Baidu.

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Innaresting.

Baidu is China’s biggest independent Internet search engine and is one of Google’s strongest rivals in China. Its music search tool is considered one of the country’s best.

But it faces growing competition both from other Chinese search engines, such as Sohu.com, and from foreign giants like Google and Yahoo, which has an alliance with Beijing 3721 via a Hong Kong partner of the Chinese Internet service provider.

“From Google’s perspective, it saw Yahoo acquiring 3721 and may have felt prompted to make a move,” said Duncan Clark, managing director of the BDA China Ltd. consultancy in Beijing.

News: Yahoo Says: 2 Gigs to You, Google

By - June 14, 2004

mailma1.gif
Well, the ante’s been upped in the user registration – er – mail wars. Yahoo will announce Tuesday that it has revamped its mail products, increasing the storage on its paid and free products to 2 gigabytes and 100 mbytes, respectively.

Is this a big deal? Yes. Why? Well, it’s the first shot in a long war of attrition that will benefit consumers and pave the way toward a true platform web. It’s very exciting, in a way, if you’re into this kind of stuff.

Yahoo mail chief Brad Garlinghouse (OK, formally, vice president, Communications Products ) gave me a quick overview of the strategy shift and said that Yahoo Mail is “getting a new coat of paint” on the UI side, and that “basically, storage is now a commodity.” He notes that this is consistent with Yahoo’s “life engine” theme – that mail is now a main way many manage their life, and Yahoo wants to create a mail program that understands that mail is more than text – it’s photos, calendar, etc.

The upgraded premium product will cost $19.99 a year and include 2 gigs of storage. This doubles Gmail’s one gig limit, I am sure quite intentionally. Also, the premium product will lose graphical ads…

A full list of features is in the extended entry of this post, or I imagine by the time you all read this you can just search Google – er – Yahoo News for more. Well shit, I was told to embargo this till midnight, but the frigging world already has it…The Times story misses the search piece altogether…but does point to an issue Yahoo is testing in a trial ballon fashion – that of privacy.

The main thing I think is missing from this ante-upping play is full featured search – the release simply says “Faster search – Yahoo! Mail inboxes are easier than ever to manage, thanks to even better search capabilities at faster speeds.” That sounds like a whole lotta nothing, compared to what Gmail does. I’ll ask for more details and post on it here when I hear.

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A Year Of Predictions, Six Months In

By - June 13, 2004

nostraD-tm.jpg That last post made me think about this one, in which I predicted, at the beginning of the year, what 2004 might bring. How am I doing, I wondered, six months in?

Well, in the preamble, I thought I’d be done with my book by about now. That was pretty damn funny. Now I hope to be done by Fall, and with luck I just might.

My listed predictions were:

1. The Web becomes a platform (again). Thanks to commerce and service APIs, RSS, and the ubiquitous interface of search, geeks around the world are again leveraging the web as a platform for cool new tools. 2004 will be the year these tools break out in something of a pre-cambrian explosion, reminiscent of the Mac in late 1980s, or CD-ROM in the early 90s. Only cooler. Examples: Grokker, Bloglines, Amazon API.

UPDATE: I think this is not entirely proven, but it feels on the right track. Hey, we even started a conference on the subject…

2. Along those lines (and no surprise to this readership, but still and all…), blog ecologies of like-minded folks will garner increasing cultural and social power. We’ve seen this happen first in the technology and media space, and recently politics has figured it out too. 2004 will see the rest of the world join in, especially in natural communities where power is projected: think professional verticals of finance, law, medicine, marketing. Folks who you never thought would ever blog will be coming online and claiming power. As a result, more blog ecologies will impose registration and/or subscription (the money kind, not the RSS kind…).

UPDATE: I think this is well on its way.

3. The Dutch auction/OpenIPO model will be validated. Not that it isn’t already alive and working – WR Hambrecht is proving that – but 2004 is when a major player (and it need not be Google) will take the lead and fly the bird at traditional Wall Street approaches to going public.

UPDATE: Auction, yes, Dutch, not entirely, and it was indeed Google.

4. Speaking of IPOs, we’ll see a major IPO ($100 million+ sold to public) in search that isn’t Google.

UPDATE: Tom Online, net proceeds $174.9 million, March 10, 2004. Not in the US, but…soon. Marchex doesn’t make the $100 million threshold (market cap is about $250 million).

5. There will be a “Tylenol Scare” in search. One of the majors – AOL, Yahoo, MSN, Google – or possibly more than one will be caught up in a major privacy and/or corporate responsibility crisis. The press and consumers will freak as they realize how important – and imperfect – this thing called search is. There will be much harrumphing, then everyone will calm down, learn from the incident, and move on.

UPDATE: Ding ding ding ding ding.

6. Once a month, a new search player will be crowned in the press as “the next Google.” One of them, in fact, could be the next Google.

UPDATE: Well, maybe not once a month.

7. Second generation blog/RSS aggregation sites will come close to combining directory functions with LinkedIn- and recommendation-engine-like features – think Amazon+Yahoo for the blogosphere….

UPDATE: Not yet, unless I’ve missed something.

8. …at about the same time Yahoo, AOL, MSN, and Google will build or buy second-generation blog/RSS aggregation sites.

UPDATE: Give it time.

9. The world will realize the importance of our digital artifacts, and takes further steps to to preserve them.

UPDATE: So far wishful thinking.

10. Cable companies will control more than 75% of the PVR market, but a backlash/new TiVo-like device (possibly from Apple) will develop by the end of the year.

UPDATE: Developing… and I should have said “Cable and satellite“…

11. Microsoft will have a surprise hit product that has nothing to do with Office or Longhorn, causing a minor fire drill in Redmond.

UPDATE: I guess Channel 9 doesn’t count…but there’s still time.

12. I’ll finish my book, try to stop writing this blog, but find it impossible to do so. Meanwhile, a deeply cool, once-in-a-decade-magazine-I wish-I-had-thought-of will launch.

UPDATE: Not yet…

A Year Ahead

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Back when I was at Wired, I noticed that the NYT always seemed to run a “trend” story that pretty much repeated our own treatment, but about a year later. Now, I notice, the same is true in the case of B2.0.

In the Times today, Jim Fallows (I am a big fan of his, he was a columnist for The Standard) points out that AdSense may be the next big thing in advertising models for the Web (not exactly news):

NYT piece

Back in June of 2003, 2.0 ran this:

2.0 piece

A year later, it seems that AdSense has heralded a new approach to advertising that will incorporate pure algorithmic and metadata-driven solutions that, I hope, will drive value back toward endemic solutions.