free html hit counter September 2004 | Page 3 of 9 | John Battelle's Search Blog

Your Own Private Island

By - September 24, 2004

omidWhen you Google Omid Kordestani, Senior vice president, world sales and field operations
at Google, you get the AdWord ad I’ve pictured at left.

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Light Day Ahead

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Posting will be light, as I am on my way to talk to folks in the Valley, first to Cambrian Ventures whose partners have quite a record of investing in interesting search related companies (Mobissimo, Kaltix, Junglee…), then to Google for the afternoon. I’m looking forward to my first visit to the ‘plex post IPO.

Google News V. Yahoo News

By - September 23, 2004

JD Lasica takes a long look here. He asks:

Google News: Unintentionally skewing to the right?

He then goes on to analyze Google News results, which are driven mainly by algorithms, and Yahoo News, driven more by editorial judgment. Interesting. I don’t have a dog in this fight, so please folks, let’s avoid the Goon Shadow smackdown.

Joho Does WEF

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clintonWEFBack in 2001, I was named a “GLT“, which is short for Global Leader of Tomorrow, by the lords of the World Economic Forum in Davos. I felt just a tiny a bit sheepish about the honor, and still do, as I imagine the decision making process might have gone something like “Who’s hot in the internet space? That Battelle guy sure has a great magazine, let’s get him.” Then my magazine bit the dust. Dooh!

Anyway, I got to go to Davos that year, and I still get invited, but since then I haven’t found either the coin or the time to attend. But man, what a meeting it is, the world’s entire power structure laid out in one large, wonderful, and ostentatious display, nearly everyone promenading, certain of their self worth, the fragrance of shared self-congratulation hanging thick in the air. And, in fact, it’s true: Everyone there *is* important, from the heads of most every major state, to the heads of every major corporation. The World Economic Forum, more than any meeting I have ever been to, is about power, baby, raw power dressed in impeccable french shirts, cufflinks, and hand-tailored suits. (OK, there are also a few poorly dressed geeks, and some rather boring German industrialists, but for the most part, the agenda is set by the suits).

All this came back to me as I read this post from David Weinberger, who was asked to participate in one of the Forum’s many seminars held around the world. This one was in NYC over the past few days, and his portion of it focused on the media business. The post is chilling, if you care about what the overlords of Big Media are thinking about, give it a read.

Excerpts:

First, these people are thrashing. They’re floundering. They’re desperate to find a way in which their organizations still add value. They are in denial but, it seemed to me, they know that there’s just about nothing that the market wants from them. For example, at one point someone said, “Content is king.” I replied that judging from the content they’re producing, marketing is king; that’s where their real value is. Further, I said, on the Internet, connection is king. But then they want to know how to “monetize” connection. There’s nothing wrong with that, so long as you understand how monetizing it can kill it. The most convincing case I heard for real value was that only Hollywood can afford to make blockbusters. But beyond that…?

Second, they don’t understand what the hell we’re talking about. I can’t say that I made any inroads. To them, the Internet is a transport for distributing bits they own. Its lack of DRM is a hole that they will plug. They have no doubt that strong DRM is on its way and that it’s a good thing. (Cory could tell them.)

Third, they believe they’re responding to the market. They do not recognize that their market has abandoned them. They think that file-sharing is an aberration. In some unthought way, I think they actually believe that the legislation they’re back is something the market wants. They maintain this thought this by not actually thinking it out loud.

Fourth, they’re going to win. They are going to kill the Internet and they don’t even know it. The worst of Larry Lessig’s nightmares is coming true, at least in the US. Sure, there will be sophisticated hacks and analog holes and guys in back alleys with soldering irons who’ll remove the hardware restrictions so your kid can include a snippet of a movie in her social studies paper. But that’s exactly what losing looks like.

Depressed? You betcha. But then I think: That’s why G-d put Canada right there to our north.

These are smart people and I liked talking with them. They were willing to listen. Some, in fact, even agree to varying degrees. But they are riding beasts that are in agony, and the Internet will be a sticky stain on the bottom of their massive hooves.

We are doomed.

But then David tells us he got a chance to present, and what he said made me proud to know him.

I said that I understand that to them the Net looks like a medium through which content passes, some of which people aren’t paying for. But, (sez I) their customers aren’t “consuming” content. We’re not consuming anything. We’re listening to music, We’re watching video streams, We’re talking with friends. To call it content is to miss why it matters to Big Content’s customers.

BigCon’s product, I said, is special. It’s published. That means it’s given over to the public for us to appropriate it, make it our own. We hum it, we quote it, we make jokes with it as a punchline, we get it wrong. We do that because it matters to us. And that’s how creative works succeed. They become ours in some sense.

Further, culture advances by our having the leeway to build on published work and incorporate it into other works. From The Star Spangled Banner to most of Disney’s feature length cartoons, that’s what we do.

So, we need the leeway, both to be able to continue as a culture, and — more important from their point of view — to continue to get value from what the Big Content folks produce. It’s our ability to absorb and reuse that gives their product value.

Way to go, David. I only wonder, though, who was in the room with you?

Furl Sold to Looksmart

By - September 22, 2004

logo_furl_2004I’ll update this in the morning, but as I predicted (or rather, intonated, here and here), Furl has been sold, to Looksmart. There were other bidders, but founder Mike Giles went with Looksmart for a number of reasons, he tells me. One, they did not force him to move to California. And two, they seemed comfortable with allowing him to continue the company on the path he wants to take it. Congratulations, Mike!

This of course is yet another paving stone in the path toward clickstream-based search, a path A9, Ask, and Yahoo are all busy blazing. More soon.

Update: Release in extended entry.

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Ramesh Jain: The Search Steering Wheel

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jainInteresting interview with Ramesh Jain in the ICM journal Ubiquity came across my desk. In it he refers to the idea of a “steering wheel” for search – he longs for another mechanism by which he can control his searching and finding. This is consistent with the emerging meme of new search interfaces that I’ve pinged on A9 and MyJeeves. Jain is professor of computer science at the Georgia Institute of Technology and founder of Virage, among other companies.

JAIN: Current search engines like Google do not give me a “steering wheel” for searching the Internet (the term steering wheel was used by William Woods in one of his articles). The search engines get faster and faster, but they’re not giving me any control mechanism. The only control mechanism, which is also a stateless control mechanism, asks the searcher to put in keywords, and if I put in keywords I get this huge monstrous list. I have no idea how to refine this list. The only way is to come up with a completely new keyword list. I also don’t know what to do with the 8 million results that Google threw at me. So when I am trying to come up with those keywords, I don’t know really where I am. That means I cannot control that list very easily because I don’t have a holistic picture of that list. That’s very important. When I get these results, how do I get some kind of holistic representation of what these results are, how they are distributed among different dimensions.

UBIQUITY: What would that kind of holistic representation be like?

JAIN: Two common dimensions that I find very useful in many general applications are time and space. If I can be shown how the items are distributed in time and space, I can start controlling what I want to see over this time period or what I want to see in that space.

(Thanks, Vuk.)

In No Official Capacity…

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yahoo.gifJeremy asks what folks might want from his employer should they decide to open up Yahoo’s APIs. I’ve been encouraging them to do this for a while now, unleash the Force of the Many! Speaking of which, there are already many comments, a neat view into what the web wants.

Google Going More Transparent

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clarityI’ve said before that Google’s opaque approach to policy – in particular with regard to its editorial policies surround AdWords – could not stand. Now Danny has the scoop on Google’s intention to clarify and expand its advertising guidelines. Great news.

Forget the debate over what exactly Google will allow. A core issue to me has been why doesn’t Google simply publish its rules? Why can’t advertisers know from the start what Google allows? The guesswork has been infuriating to some who have been rejected on the basis of unpublished policies in the past, plus it has fed into the secretive nature some accuse Google of having….
…Google’s planning to greatly expand the editorial guidelines it publishes online, providing everyone — advertisers and Google users alike — a better idea of what it accepts on the advertising front.

“We’re in the editing phase of what that page will look like,” said Sheryl Sandberg, vice president of global online sales and operations for Google. “It won’t be up in the next few days, but if we’re not done within a few months, I’ll be disappointed.”

I'm Being Followed By A Goon Shadow, Goon Shadow Goon Shadow…

By - September 21, 2004

catstevensjpgLook, I couldn’t resist. This is pretty orthogonal to search, but…I do have more than a passing interest in how we are tracking and searching folks we consider to be potential terrorists, and in the Patriot Act in particular. But this item from BoingBoing was too funny not to note: Cat Stevens, who pretty much defined high school lovesick treacle for me, forced a plane to divert from the US to London when US Customs decided he was a terrorist threat (he converted to Islam some time ago.) I just had to make the pun.

Web 2.0 Draws Near

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web2Over at O’Reilly, Tim’s posted his thoughts on why Web 2.0 is a meme with legs, and he’s inviting feedback from his readers on what they’d like to see asked of all the speakers we have coming to converse. I’d like to do the same – you guys have always kept me honest, and the conference is really shaping up to be something else again. As Tim puts it:

I’m talking about the emergence of what I’ve started to call Web 2.0, the internet as platform. We heard about that idea back in the late 90s, at the height of the browser wars, but that turned out to be a false alarm. But I believe we’re now starting the third age of the internet — the first being the telnet-era command line internet, the second the web — and the third, well, that tale grows in the telling. It’s about the way that open source and the open standards of the web are commoditizing many categories of infrastructure software, driving value instead to the data and business processes layered on top of (or within) that software; it’s about the way that web sites like eBay, Amazon, and Google are becoming platforms with rich add-on developer communities; it’s about the way that network effects and data, rather than software APIs, are the new tools of customer lock-in; it’s about the way that to be successful, software today needs to work above the level of a single device; it’s about the way that the Microsofts and Intels of tomorrow are once again going to blindside established players because all the rules of business are changing.

Time and again as I report in this space, I’m struck by how different this time round is from the late 1990s. For example, today I spoke with Jeff Weber, who runs USAToday’s digital publishing efforts, and we had a robust conversation about publishing models, new and old. I was part of the first wave of “new media” in the 90s, and we were convinced that the world was changing, but wrong in the timing and execution. Now, a whole host of “lightweight publishers” have sprung up, and they are challenging and undermining the entire cost structure and business model of old line publishers. This time, it’s real. Weber pointed out to me that Yahoo News, which is twice as big as USAToday.com, and has just 11 employees. Then there’s craigslist, with more traffic than nearly anyone, and only 20 or so employees. How do they do that? They’ve got a very Web 2.0, lightweight business model, that’s how (and Yahoo aggregates content, then creates interfaces, of course). Over and over, in so many aspects of industry, we see this happening – travel, finance, media, entertainment, retail. It’s exciting, and it’s fun.

At Web 2.0, we’re going to talk about all this, and (this will be the last time, I promise) I’d really like to see you all there. I still have a limited number of discount codes to dole out, first come, first served (jbat at battellemedia dot com). The event is October 5-7, in San Francisco at the Hotel Nikko.

Even if you can’t make it, check out the program and let me know what you’d like to see asked of the speakers. I hope to see you there!

UPDATE: The Web 2 team sent out a release today with all sorts of info and goodies, and I should have at least pointed out the hightlights. Quoting from the release:

The Web 2.0 Conference has been chosen by several leading companies and entrepreneurs to debut their businesses and new products. Special announcements will be made by Web 2.0 Conference founding sponsors eBay, Morpheus, NetSuite, PayPal and Sxip, along with the introduction of new companies by industry leaders such as Marimba Founder Kim Polese, Internet entrepreneur and Excite founder Joe Kraus, IdeaLab CEO and Overture founder Bill Gross, StreamCast founder Michael Weiss and Red Herring co-founder Christopher Alden with Kevin Burton, creator of the NewsMonster aggregator. The Web 2.0 Conference is the first-ever second generation Internet business conference that brings together the leading Internet industry figures and companies to discuss and debate the most important issues and strategies driving the Internet economy and will take place October 5-7, 2004 at the Hotel Nikko in San Francisco.

During Web 2.0 Conference sessions and workshops, additional announcements will be made by presenters such as Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, with several other speakers introducing their companies on stage during their presentations. Each full day of networking, discussion and debate will be followed by entertaining evening programs, highlighted by a dinner conversation with Mark Cuban on Tuesday, October 5. Other events that evening include a cocktail party sponsored by SparkPR and the