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Why Paid Search Is Growing

By - August 16, 2004

I was going through some of Safa’s presentations on the search market (thanks, Safa!) and found this chart. We already know this, but it’s compelling to see it laid so bare:

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EBay Buys Into Craigslist

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Back when I went to see Craig Newmark of Craigslist (he’s speaking at Web 2.0), I noted how amazingly successful his gem of a company was, and I asked, “Aren’t you worried you’re going to wake up eBay?”

Well, eBay just finished its cup of coffee, and went and bought 25% of Craig’s company.

Here’s Craig’s take on it in his blog. A lot of comments. Apparently a person (not named) that owned equity in Craigslist was the impetus to the deal, not Craig himself.

Search Numbers

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More from Pew. I find it very hard to believe that “Americans conducted 3.9 million searches in June.” I think *I* conducted that many in June. I’m checking into it.

Crediting The Blogosphere

By - August 15, 2004

Om rants about how bloggers are not given their due by mainstream media, pointing out that in many cases, the “mainstream media” is the “new media” – places like Cnet.com, et al. As he points out, this is as it ever was, blogs represent a new phase of breaking news. Rafat and others have long ranted about how “mainstream” journalists steal ideas and scoops from blogs, and it’s certainly true (Rafat’s example is my story on FareChase, in fact). But I rather enjoy the quiet knowledge that our memes are getting out there into the world, and figure credit comes as credit will come… with time. As more and more folks begin to take their writing and reporting seriously in this medium, blogs will break into various evolved forms, one of them being as a source for legitimate news. I have never really seen this blog as a newsmaking endeavor, I don’t strive to break news. When I do, great, but that’s not the point. I vastly prefer to write the Joints-After-Midnight rants based on analysis of the news….but that’s just me. News-driven sites like Rafat’s and Om’s have a valid point.

(Inside Baseball Paragraph Follows:) Om suggests that T’rati or Feedster create a central clearinghouse for news that all of us can monitor, ideally as an RSS feed. I think that’d be great. Anytime any serious blogger is breaking a story, he or she can ping the service. Presto, we’ve got a record of the scoop. Often times a blogger will see an AP story or News.com story that seems to be the original newsbreaker, and link to that story as the originator. But if that blogger has the newscoop service as well, they’ll know who was the real originator, and credit them. Problem solved. What say Scott, Dave?

Cnet and others have a policy of not linking outside of their own site when it comes to their news stories, instead breaking out external links into ghettoized special sections. This will probably not stand in the long term. The good news is that places like Cnet will evolve far faster than the last time we went round this maypole.

The Memex, The Story, and Searchstreams

By - August 13, 2004

vannevar“There will always be plenty of things to compute in the detailed affairs of millions of people doing complicated things.”
- V. Bush

We love stories. It’s how we understand the world. Were I to tell a friend what happened in tonight’s Giants game, I wouldn’t send him a box score (though I might refer to one as I was talking to him). I’d say something like “Man, we looked terrible in the first two innings, our rookie pitcher was tight and we had back-to-back errors resulting in a three-run deficit by the second. But then AJ nailed a three-run homer that put us back in the game, and in the 5th we rang up three more (including Barry’s 689th!). It was all Giants from then on, and JT Snow was on fire …!” and so on. A story is our way of taking a journey and making it portable – we can give it to others, and we’re wired to enjoy both hearing a good story, as well as telling it.

I was thinking about this as I was researching the phrase “tempting fate” this afternoon. I was sure there was some Greek mythology behind it, some base case proof that human beings have always struggled with the question of determinism, the Gods, free will, destiny. At the very least, there had to be a good story behind it, and hell, we love good stories. So what did I do? I fired up Google and started poking around. First it was a simple “tempting fate,” but that was far too broad, not what I was looking for (though it was interesting to see a Google News story about the Athens Olympics). I called my mom, she of all knowledge mythological, and she reminded me that Shakespeare often used the Fates in his work. Armed with this new high order bit, I went back and Googled “The Fates” mythology. I was on to something. I started reading up on the three dieties of Fate, taking turns and twists through references both within Google and from links on the pages I found.

But then I realized I was treading familiar ground. I had searched before for the meaning of a phrase, during my Gilgamesh riff a couple of weeks ago. In fact, I recalled finding a great resource for quotations and literary references. But alas, I did not have the searchstream from that last Googleriff, and I had forgotten to Furl that one site I recalled seeing before. I had to start all over again. Damn, I muttered. When was A9 going to get a Mac version of its toolbar! That has the built in ability to capture and record your search history as well as the things you looked at, all in one package.

My previous searchstream was lost, alas, so I started over. Once again I found myself on a great journey, from early 20th century texts on philosophy and religion to scholarly interpretations of The Fates and their role in early Greek tragedy, Homeric epics, Shakespeare…it was great fun. And in the end I came to a much fuller understanding of my original question.

“Battelle!” those of you still reading this far down may well ask. “What the f*ck was your question, anyway?” Sorry about that. It was this: Why on earth launch the bidding process for Google shares on Friday the 13th, on the eve of a major news event shrouded in terrorist threat (the Athens Olympics), on a day the SEC has opened an investigation into you, in a week where dot com plays have abandoned ship and pulled their IPOs? I mean, what’s the harm in waiting till Monday, at least?

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What’s the rush, I wondered. Why tempt fate?

Well, I think I found my answer, but for that you’ll have to read the book, assuming I’m not tempting fate by noodling around here instead of actually writing it (really, is there a difference?). Suffice to say, I didn’t find my answer in the first ten results of my initial Google search.

But what I really wish for, both to tell the story of my search, and to annotate my book, is the ability to take that searchstream and turn it into an object – a narrative thread of sorts, something I can hold and keep and refer to, a prop to aid in the telling and retelling of how I came to my answer. Tracks in the dust, so to speak, so others can follow and make their own, or follow mine and see (and question!) how I came to my conclusions. Imagine, I thought to myself, if instead of footnotes and citations, I could append searchstreams…

That’s when I remembered As We May Think, Vannevar Bush’s famous essay in The Atlantic. I had read it earlier in my research, and was struck not by the idea of the Memex, which is well understood, but by Bush’s explication of the problem – that knowledge and learning has become so complicated, so layered, so inefficient, that it is near impossible for anyone to be a generalist, in the sense Aristotle was. Bush’s answer to this problem was the Memex, of course, but what I find interesting is the mechanism by which the Memex is made potent – the mechanism for capturing the traces of a researcher’s discovery through the Memex’s corpus, and storing those traces as intelligence so the next researcher can learn from them and build upon them.

Searchstreams, I realized, are the DNA which will build the Memex from the flat soil of search as it’s currently understood. Engines that leverage searchstreams will make link analysis-based search (ie, nearly all of commercial search today) look like something out of the pre-Cambrian era. The first fish with feet are all around us – A9, Furl, del.icio.us. We have yet to build the critical mass of searchstreams by which this next generation engine might be built (nor will it necessarily be built with our tacit consent). But I can sense it coming.

Here’s to evolution….

Full Text of The Interview

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ecomm_magHere’s Playboy’s online teaser for the interview. Funny, the boys’ picture didn’t make the cover. Huh.

The full text of the article is in the S-1A filed today (I bet Hef loves that…get a major scoop, then have the damn thing in a public document the day the magazine hits the newsstands). Scroll to the bottom. Highlights:

On Growth:
PAGE: I worry, but I’ve worried all along. I worried as we got bigger and there were new pressures on the company. It wasn’t so long ago that we were all on one floor. Then we moved to a new, larger office building and were on two floors. We added salespeople. Each change was huge and happened over a very short period of time. I learned you have to pay a lot of attention to any company that’s changing rapidly. When we had about 50 people, we initiated weekly TGIF meetings on Friday afternoons so everyone would know what had happened during the week. But those meetings have broken down because we now have too many people, about 1,000, including many who work in different time zones. We try to have a summation of the week’s work via e-mail, but it’s not the same. When you grow, you continually have to invent new processes. We’ve done a pretty good job keeping up, but it’s an ongoing challenge.

On Evil:
PLAYBOY: Is your company motto really “Don’t be evil”?
BRIN: Yes, it’s real.
PLAYBOY: Is it a written code?
BRIN: Yes. We have other rules, too.
PAGE: We allow dogs, for example.

On Privacy:
PLAYBOY: Did the outcry about the privacy issue surprise you?
BRIN: Yes. The Gmail thing has been a bit of a lesson.
PAGE: We learned a few things. There was a lot of debate about whether we were going to delete people’s mail if they wanted it to be deleted. Obviously, you want us to have backups of your mail to protect it, but that raises privacy issues. We created a policy statement about privacy, and the attorneys probably got a little ahead of themselves. The lawyers wrote something that was not very specific. It said something like, “If you request that we delete your e-mail, it may remain on a backup system for a while.” It led people to say, “Google wants to keep my deleted mail.” That’s not our intent at all. Since then we have added some language explaining it. We intend to try to delete it.
PLAYBOY: That’s not reassuring.
PAGE: But you wouldn’t want us to lose your mail, either. There’s a trade-off. So yes, we learned some things. We could have done a better job on the messaging. In its earliest testing stages Gmail was available only to a small number of people. People started talking about it before they could try it. I didn’t expect them to be so interested. We released the privacy policy, and they were very interested in that. It was all they had access to, so it sparked a lot of controversy. The more people tried Gmail, however, the more they understood it.

On China:
PLAYBOY: Have you ever agreed to conditions set by the Chinese government?
BRIN: No, and China never demanded such things. However, other search engines have established local presences there and, as a price of doing so, offer severely restricted information. We have no sales team in China. Regardless, many Chinese Internet users rely on Google. To be fair to China, it never made any explicit demands regarding censoring material. That’s not to say I’m happy about the policies of other portals that have established a presence there.

On Stoney Stuff:
PLAYBOY: Is your goal to have the entire world’s knowledge connected directly to our minds?
BRIN: To get closer to that — as close as possible.
PLAYBOY: At some point doesn’t the volume become overwhelming?
BRIN: Your mind is tremendously efficient at weighing an enormous amount of information. We want to make smarter search engines that do a lot of the work for us. The smarter we can make the search engine, the better. Where will it lead? Who knows? But it’s credible to imagine a leap as great as that from hunting through library stacks to a Google session, when we leap from today’s search engines to having the entirety of the world’s information as just one of our thoughts.

If Anyone's Bidding….

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happytrader…and wants to tell us all about it, leave a comment… On this Friday the 13th….Good luck!

Reuters: Bidding process is open.

In an amended offering document filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission just hours before the auction opened, the company did not indicate whether the latest twist (the Playboy interview) would impede the deal, which has been beset by concerns over market conditions and a series of recent missteps….
…In the filing with the SEC, Google said it does not believe its involvement in the Playboy article constitutes a violation of the “quiet period” rules, but it could be required to buy back the shares sold to investors in the IPO at the original purchase price for a period of one year following the violation.

Give an Interview in April…

By - August 12, 2004

pboy… get a pass in August?

When I first heard this interview was coming, last week, I thought “Hmmm…wonder why that’s happening.” But I did not post on it. Google is not known for doing anything press related without calculating the impact down to the last meme, so it struck me that they had thought through the implications of a Playboy piece – and the attendant coverage it would create from journalists angry *they* didn’t get the interview. I figured the Playboy interview was given way before the quiet period ever started. I was wrong – it was given in early April – one week before Google filed. Now the SEC is investigating.

Could this be a case where Playboy ran with the interview against the wishes of the company? We may never know, but now the pundits are predicting this might delay the IPO, a la Benioff.

If it does, as Ross points out in an earlier comment here, it might be just what they need – a reprieve from the dog days of August, a delay that is rather harmless, as opposed to a painful postponement due to “adverse market conditions.” Your move, Mr. SEC….