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InfoWorld Bows Product Guide, Partnerships

By - September 21, 2004

logo_iw_mainMatt McAllister has been a busy dude lately. His InfoWorld site has been doing all sorts of interesting things, the latest being a deal with Feedster to integrate Feedster searches into InfoWorld’s IT Product Guide. If you scroll down on this link, for example, you’ll see Feedster’s results have been aggregated in a section called “Weblogs and Feeds.” I’d say expect more of this, in particular as Feedster has recently added an advertising and/or subscription model to its feeds through a deal with Kanoodle. All I want to know is how much of that is going back to the feed owners, Scott…

InfoWorld also announced a deal with OSTG, which is the parent company of Slashdot among others, to create and extend these product guides.

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News: Jeeves Stretches Out, Gets Personal

By - September 20, 2004

jeevesnewAsk Tuesday is launching several new features on its site (release in extended entry), but none more interesting to me than its “MyJeeves” play. What is MyJeeves? Well, it ain’t MyYahoo. It’s more like MySearch. Call it A9 meets Furl meets Ask, if you will.

This space is getting hot and heavy, and from the stuff I’ve been briefed on that is coming from other players, it’s only getting more interesting (in other words, look for related news from other search engines in the coming days and weeks).

With MyJeeves, Ask is laying the foundation for a very serious play in what I’ve called the PersonalWeb, In fact, when I was briefed today by Jim Lanzone, the VP of Search at Ask, he used that very term over and over to describe what MyJeeves creates for its users. In short, MyJeeves allows you to save results, annotate them, and then manage them in your own personal folders. Those results (and the annotation) are then searchable (as they are with A9).

Unlike A9, you can start to use the advanced features of MyJeeves without signing up for the service, though you’ll probably want to. Once you do, you get unlimited storage of saved results, and…pay attention here…your search history. Yes, that’s right, Ask becomes the second major company (and the first major search player) to lay out search history as a critical new feature of its site.

Lanzone calls the PersonalWeb the “coup de grace” of MyJeeves. “It’s like creating your own web index,” he told me, adding that once MyJeeves is in place, Ask has visualized “where we go from here: we have a significant roadmap around MyJeeves and we view this as a first step of a long staircase.”

askhistorySo, I asked, does MyJeeves save just the URL of a page, or does it archive a copy of the page, like Furl does? Well, for now, it just saves the URL, but Lanzone told me in the very near future, it will save a copy – meaning that one of my holy grails – the integration of search with perfect copies of what I’ve seen on the web – will soon come to pass.

But wait, there’s more. Ask also announced that its anticipated desktop product, (acquired when the company purchased Tukaroo) will launch in the fourth quarter, and that it will be incorporated into the MyJeeves interface environment. That means another one of my holy grails – integrating web search with my hard drive – is also on the march at Ask. Cool.

Ask has a lot of other news packed into today’s announcement. Besides MyJeeves, the company announced “version 3.0″ of Teoma, its indexing technology. Ask claims improved relevance, freshness, new internationalized support, and an expanded index (more than 2 billion English web pages, climbing to 2.5 billion later in the year). Version 3 will also include caching, which is required, of course, to support the Furl-like qualities of MyJeeves.

Ask also announced “new and improved” local search, with a major score by our buddy Rich Skrenta, whose Topix.net will power local news results for Ask Local. Ask also confirmed widely reported news that Citysearch listings are now integrated into the Local index.

And lastly, as you can see from the image above, Ask’s butler is back. He’s been put on a diet, hit the gym, gotten a tan and scored some better clothes. Svelte, baby.

So what does this all mean? Well, this is a big deal, certainly. It marks yet another major step in the progression of search from the C prompt days of yore toward a more robust platform for navigating our increasingly complicated information-drenched lives. I only hope that Ask, A9, Furl, and all the rest keep on keeping on, and are content with singles and doubles as we move forward. There won’t be any home runs for now – none of these features are big enough to warrant a Google Moment like we had in 2000-2001. However, they all point to an incredibly robust future – and by the way, a future in which personal publishing is very much integrated into search, and vice versa. Just a thought, but once a critical mass of folks are saving searches, search results, annotations, and the like, sure as shit they’ll want to share them, publish them, and cite them (and sure as shit, engines will want to crawl em for relevance mojo). Just watch as search, blogging, and RSS start to feed off one another. It makes my brain hurt to think of the possibilities. But in a good way, of course….

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He Won't Go

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semelThe industry is a-buzzin’ that Terry Semel may leave Yahoo to go run Disney. Here’s my prediction: No f’ing way. Or put another way: Only if he’s insane. Yahoo’s running on all pistons, has significant upside potential, and points toward the future. Disney, well, Disney isn’t doing any of those things.

We’ve seen this picture before, it was called “Barry Diller Isn’t Really Serious About the Internet, Is He?”

Well, turns out, he is.

H’wood is all about power, and sure, Disney is a power play. But who do you think is going to be more powerful in five or ten years, Disney, or Yahoo? A silly question five years ago, but now?

Semel made his bed when he decided to leave H’wood, and now he’s sleeping very well, thank you. If he leaves, it would be a huge surprise to me, and a big mistake for him, IMHO. Leave the dinosaurs to fight over theme parks, lame network sitcoms, and bad films. Companies like Yahoo are in the pole position for the next big wave in media.

Raymie Stata on Search

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stataHad a nice chat Friday with Raymie Stata, of Stata Labs. Several folks reccommended I speak to him for my book, and I’m happy I did. Stata is the man behind Bloomba, a search-based email client, but he has broader ideas about where search is going, and how it will play out on the desktop and beyond.

Stata has worked at the Compaq Research Labs and the Internet Archive, among others, and he’s well versed in the meta concepts of search. He points out that search is not really the big trend of the decade, it’s the proliferation of data in the first place. I quite agree, search is our response to the extraordinary info-abundance in which we’re all awash. Stata is particularly interested in the “my stuff” problem – integrating search into what we believe is “our” information, and designing interfaces that take that point of view out to the web.

“I see search as falling behind,” Stata told me. “So much is accessible now.” He continued: “I don’t see how traditional search – crawl, take a 2.5 word query, and display ten results – can get much better.”

Stata believes search has a user interface problem, to put it rather simply. In this space and elsewhere folks have pointed out the now careworn (among Searchblog readers, anyway) metaphor that search is the C prompt of the internet, and that the interface is due for an upgrade. “Search is a metaphor,” Stata claims, one that users have come to understand, much as they understand nested folders on a computer desktop. Stata is asking, through his products and his company, what might the implications of that fact be for software?

Stata’s got some interesting answers to that, but they are not yet ready for public consumption.

Tim Berners Lee Interviewed

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berners-lee-articleOn Internet.com (image credit to them as well). Interesting to note that ever Sir Tim breaks the web into pre and post Google eras. Speaking on the state of the Semantic Web, he says:

I suppose it’s a lot like where we were in 1992 and 1993. Back then, the Web wasn’t stable, but we knew it was there and it held a lot of promise. We knew it would grow and mature, but there were a lot of things that we needed but didn’t have. This was pre-Google. Around 1991, you would go on the Web to look for something that wasn’t there. Today, that information is there and we can find it easily. So, I think that’s where we are with the Semantic Web. We know it will mature, but we’re not quite there yet.

(Thanks, Gary)

YAAN: Yet Another Ad Network

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logoBlueContexAd launches today, meaning there’s yet another ad network to grok. I skimmed its Terms & Conditions, as far as I can tell, this one will accept bloggers, and has less onerous terms than Google. I am waiting for word on how large their advertising network is and confirmation on the blogging acceptance deal.

The company which runs ContextAd, called ContextWeb, claims in its press release to be faster and “4-6 times” more accurate than AdSense. It’s first round was funded by Draper Fisher Jurvetson to the tune of $3 million. Release in extended entry.

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Online Advertising Marches On, Search Sprints

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moneyNew numbers from the IAB and PriceWatherhouseCoopers this morning on Q2 2004: Spending hit $2.37 billion, search was $1 billion of that, or 40 percent. Spending for the first half of 2004 is pegged at $4.6 billion, which means 2004 is on pace to exceed 2000 as the biggest year ever for online advertising.

Mediapost coverage.

In a (somewhat) related note, Overture will announce today that it is expanding paid search to five new markets: Brazil, Canada, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Also, the SF Chronicle gets some internal Google documents outlining plans for international expansion and frustration over cumbersome internal systems.

A Little Insight Into Yahoo's Thinking On Blogs and Search

By - September 19, 2004

0916blogsOver at Yahoo Search Blog, some ruminations on the popularity of Live Journal and Xanga. Hmmm…

When you think about blogs, search may not be the first thing that comes to mind. I find most blogs end up staring back at me from the browser window thanks to links from other blogs. But people search for blogs on a variety of subjects — in the past week, we’ve seen over 3,000 different search terms with the word “blog” in them — everything from “Dream Blog” to the more philosophical “What does blog mean?”

Tools that help a person establish a blog presence on the Internet are insanely popular in search. Xanga and LiveJournal are the top two spots for those looking to start a blog. Both of these services are firmly ensconced in our top 500 search terms.

Now, I’ve wondered for some time when Yahoo was going to up and buy a blogging site. Or start one of their own. Oh, I know, they have Geocities….but this blogging thing, it just…might…have…legs….

Did you mean…

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Greg and Jeremy discuss the idea of making search a dialogue – asking the engine to listen to you as you attempt to find what you’re looking for. The software might ask, as many do now for spell checking, “Did you mean…”, then it would refine what it presents to you based on your input. Together you and the software can zero in on the perfect answer for you.

I’ve asked folks about this* in the course of my reporting on search, and always gotten the same response: It’s really hard to do. Such an approach to results works particularly well with limited and/or structured data sets (ie “I see you’re looking for a movie. Did you want a comedy or a drama?”) but not so hot with horizontal, unstructured data.

However, that doesn’t mean folks aren’t working on it (or that some engines, like Teoma or AllTheWeb, don’t have some solutions already, and Yahoo’s “Also Try…” is close as well). The problem is that it’s hard to make the choices presented relevant enough of the time – so that overall, the service is really, really useful, as opposed to often right, but often also wrong.

(*And I also asked how come it was that “Did you mean…” works so well for spell checking. Turns out it’s relatively easy to write an algorithm that takes note of common misspellings and maps them to properly spelled words. The same is not true, however, for concepts.)