I’m off early Saturday to Florida, visiting relatives, giving a talk, hanging with my family, and focusing on writing. So Searchblog is taking a week off, save the occasional drop in to clean up comment spam, or to note major news (like Google buying Microsoft, or something). I’ll be back at it, sunburned, rested, and ready, next weekend. If you need me, drop a line at jbat at battellemedia dot com. (Yes, I’ve already voted, and I hope you all will as well!).
Interesting speculation from David Weinberger on what Keyhole might mean if mixmashed with the Google Browser rumors.
It would not be a Web browser. It’d be a world browser. It would find pages on the Web, of course, but it’d also find the ones on my desktop (Google desktop). It would know about my email (Gmail). It would know that my own photos are categorically different from all the other jpgs on the planet (Picasa). It would let me browse the physical earth (Keyhole) and show on a map the documents that talk about any particular place (Keyhole + Google Local).
And it wouldn’t be just a browser. It would let me work with the information I’ve found: Manage my photos (Picasa), manage my desktop files, translate documents (Google Languages), shop…
Silicon Beat has an overview of a recent talk given by Ram Shriram, early Google investor and Board member.
— It’s all in the grooming. Shriram set out to made sure Page & Brin hired only the very best, or “A” people. He cited the well-known Silicon Valley tenet: Hire only A people, and they’ll hire other A people. If you hire the B person, they’ll hire C or D people. Someone asked a good question: How did Shriram decide who are a so-called “A” people? Grooming is a part of it. “I try to find out who their mothers are,” he said. If they are raised well, they’re more likely to make good citizens, employees and entrepreneurs.
Google is famous for their hiring practices, it’s apparently not a picnic to get hired there, and they clearly are looking for very specific things. Russell Beattie, who is pretty well known for his chops in the mobile space, writes from the heart about his decision to bail on the whole Google hiring process. Interesting to see how Google is being viewed by those who might join it.
Jerry Yang on the future of search over in Yahoo’s Search Blog. Nothing mind blowing here, save it’s sure nice to see Jerry blogging.
Ten years ago, we were focused on a simple yet vast problem: finding better ways to aggregate and organize information so people can find it. Today, the challenge is different. On the one hand, there’s a lot more information to aggregate and it’s not just more in terms of quantity; there’s a larger variety of content as well — from products and images to news and business information. In addition, we’re pulling content from more sources than ever before.
On the other hand, our user’s expectations have also changed. It’s no longer enough to simply provide a structure for users to find what they want on the Web. Today, people expect to find precisely what they’re looking for exactly as it relates to them. It’s the old example of the “Java” search query. Are you looking for coffee or for the programming language? People want to define what’s relevant to them in their own personal way. They also want to tap into the source of their information at will and they want to manage it all to personally suit their needs.
That’s what is exciting about where we are today. Search as a problem is still far from being solved. The user is in the driver’s seat: they want an experience that is increasingly personal, more relevant, and ties into their task more integrally. Search is just a way to get that integrated experience, but it’s all about what the users want – when they want it, how they want it, and who they want it from.
For some odd reason I find the Yellow Pages interesting, always have. There’s something about them that just reeks of…opportunity. Apparently Google agrees. They inked a deal with BellSouth’s Yellow Pages unit, a deal which let’s BellSouth resell AdWords. In other words, this is a new strategy for Google – BellSouth is the first ever company to have rights to resell Google’s AdWords. If it works, it may have far reaching implications.
So why did they do it? Local, local, local. It’s very hard to sell AdWords to plumbers. The Yellow Pages have reps who already sell ads to them. It’s all about the trenches in the Local market.
Release in extended entry. Also, see SEW coverage.
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Dave Dorman is a hoot to talk with. Who else would call his competitors a “leper colony”?
This interview is in this month’s Business 2.0.
TITANS OF TECH
The CEO of AT&T is on a mission to restore his company to greatness. His plan: Use the Internet to unplug the competition.
By John Battelle, November 2004 Issue
Is David Dorman a telecom lifer or a startup survivor? In truth, he’s both. He started out working at Sprint, then became CEO of Pacific Bell, where he created the first regional-phone-company Internet service provider. He then took a detour into the dotcom world, where he led PointCast, a much-hyped “push” technology company, until shortly before it went under. Chastened, he returned to the business he knew best: telecom.
But as it turned out, someone who’d tried out an untested new business model was exactly who Ma Bell would need. When Dorman joined AT&T (T) in late 2000, then-CEO Michael Armstrong held a grand vision for integrating what Dorman calls the “magic five” — local, long distance, high-speed data, wireless, and video. But things didn’t turn out as planned. Instead of reigning over a vast telecom empire, Dorman ended up leading AT&T through the most perilous period in its 127-year history. Teetering finances forced Armstrong to divest wireless and cable. Factor in a recent regulatory decision that Dorman claims left him no choice but to abandon AT&T’s residential phone business — which represents about 25 percent of the company’s revenue — and it’s no wonder Wall Street is tepid about AT&T’s prospects.
Dorman responds by pointing out that AT&T is the clear leader in providing networking to Fortune 500 companies, and, he says, his competitors are in shambles. More intriguing, he has a strategy to put AT&T back on top.
It’s clear that Dorman grasps the disruptive nature of the Internet. Right now the Net is changing voice — Dorman really lights up when you ask him about CallVantage, AT&T’s voice-over-IP service. But at some point, it could lead to video-over-IP, a potential competitor to cable. Add it all up — the old long-distance and high-speed data businesses, CallVantage, a new wireless play, maybe even video — and Dorman may be rebuilding AT&T into the company he once thought he would lead, one magic-five application at a time.
When you announced you were leaving the residential telephone business, your share price dropped. Why do you think the markets reacted negatively?
We don’t have to have residential telephone business to be a successful company. So many of the stories I’ve seen say, “They’re going to go away. It’s over.”
That question’s on my list here …
This is a $30 billion company, and consumer is $8 billion of that. I’ve got the best business-services franchise in the world. And I’ve got a leper colony of competitors. We know what MCI’s been through. Sprint — they’re a wireless company, just ask them. And you look at the rest of the guys — Qwest (Q), XO Communications, Wiltel, Level 3. Is a major company like Citigroup (C) or J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM) going to bet on someone like that vs. going with us?
Your industry has not covered itself in glory these past five years — MCI, for starters.
You know something people didn’t understand? A big part of Tyco’s (TYC) value was TyCom — an optical network. And Enron had $30 billion-plus of its market cap based on its broadband-trading business. So the three biggest frauds in American history had a direct impact on telecom. Add Qwest and Global Crossing, and we had five major catastrophes in the industry. AT&T didn’t cause that; we just have to deal with the aftermath.
Must be fun to be a telecom CEO.
It was a great thing 10 years ago. We’re in a cycle. The most frustrating, gut-wrenching thing for me is, I can’t tell you how long the cycle’s going to last. But the overcapacity will get reconciled. If we didn’t have Qwest fighting for its life and MCI fighting for its life, prices would stabilize.
(more in extended entry…read on, it’s a fun one)
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First and foremost, Keyhole is in the Holy Crap That’s A Lot of Data business – that alone is reason for Google to be interested. Their database stands at 12 terabytes and growing. It covers more than 50 percent of the earth’s population, and includes satellite imagery, mapping data, topographic overlays, and, pay attention here, geolocation-based content tags. In fact, in his presentation at Web 2.0, Hanke showed an application, which he called geoblogging, which allows folks to fly around Keyhole’s data and annotate various things they see. “They identify a spot, then talk about it, upload pictures they took there, whatever,” Hanke told me. “That then becomes an icon, a point in the Keyhole database” that others can view and comment upon. (Want to check it out? Head here.)
The idea is to bring the Force of the Many and the Architecture of Participation(caveat, PDF download) to a visualization of the earth. Jaw dropping yet? But wait, there’s more. Hanke also showed the overlay of real time traffic information from third party sources, like the CalTrans traffic feed. Mapping data to geography will allow for multitudes of such applications. Imagine Google scaling Keyhole to all web surfers for free, and then opening up the APIs for all to develop on.
Hanke told me that when he started Keyhole he and his team had a dream of building a revolutionary product that “touched millions and millions of people.” Reality intervened as the bubble burst and resources became dear. But with Google now in the picture, that dream is once again alive, Hanke says. “We could have remained an independent company,” he told me. “But the power of the Google brand, the infrastructure…” Not to mention, Hanke added, Google’s mission, which fits nicely with Keyhole’s.
Will Google let Hanke realize his dream, and keep doing all the cools things Keyhole was attempting to do? I asked Hanke if it’d be a fair assumption to make that he’d only sell his company to someone who shared his passions and his dreams. His response? Yup, that’s a fair assumption.
Hat tip: Jeremy for blogging the conference, thanks.