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Next Up For AdSense: Dancing Monkeys

By - December 07, 2004

monkeyWhoa! Gary notes that AdSense Image, itself a test program, is planning on taking animated gifs for a test group soon. From the site:

Enhanced image ads

Google will soon be expanding its image ad program to include a wider variety of creative formats. We’ll be accepting animated GIFs from a small test group of advertisers, and you’ll be able to display these ads on your pages! The new ads will still adhere to the 50KB size limit, and will be reviewed according to our editorial guidelines for image ads. You can opt in to image ads from within your publisher account – for full instructions, please refer to the AdSense FAQ.

OK, now, this is interesting. On the one hand, it’s Google clearly following its customer’s lead – the advertising customer, that is. And it’s crossing a line that until now has not been crossed – moving, dancing images. What that has to do with relevance, the watchword of Google’s ad policies up until now, I can’t really say. Well, yes I can: Nothing. Animations are all about the other portion of advertising; getting your attention.

It won’t be long till my vision of Google as clearinghouse for the entire television upfront comes to pass, I’d wager…

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Free Prize Inside (Sometimes)

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blingoRemember iWon? Yeah, a chance of winning cash for every search. It worked – sold to Ask Jeeves (with parent ISH) for a pretty good sum. Now comes word of Blingo, a search engine that launches Thursday. It will give away prizes on random searches. The engine is based on Gigablast results (is this the first deal for them? Gigablast is the one man band out of New Mexico, much lauded for doing so much with so little…).

In any case, Blingo has gotten coverage from SEW’s Danny Sullivan today, and I have been going back and forth with the CEO, Frank Anderson, who wants to clear a few things up. From his note to me:

I believe Danny Sullivan… was coming from the perspective that we’re not going to be able to beat Google with a prize / sweepstakes model. I wholeheartedly agree, and we don’t have such grand plans. We know our place in this market and simply hope to build a nice niche audience by doing things the right way — a great user experience and great prizes. …
It is certainly fair to use iWon as a reference point for Blingo because of the Sweepstakes angle, but the similarities end there. To be fair, Blingo has been implemented in a very user-friendly manner (no registration, spam, etc.) and strips away almost all of the nonsense typically associated with Sweepstakes.

Anderson has a point – for most search startups, you can’t out Google Google, you can only find another angle. Blingo’s is to have decent results, with the chance of winning a cool prize every time you search. For now it’s running AdWords as its business model, but if they pick up traffic, expect that to change….

This makes me think, huh…what happens when Google-like search results – I mean Google circa 2003 or so – become commonplace. Will that be good enough for a lot of folks, and will search become a commodity, as it was thought to be in 1998? Or will Google and first tier engines manage to really make search so much better that 2003 search will look as lame as, well, 1998 search does now?

Yikes. I certainly hope so. But for the masses who are not really super-searchers, maybe good enough *is* good enough. Hmmm.

Firefox Users: Less Ad Clicks

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firefoxThis makes sense – Firefox users, who are arguably more sophisticated web surfers, apparently click less on Web ads than those who use Internet Explorer. Firefox blocks pop ups and can be set to block images as well. But I think the real reason is Firefox users know what they want.

Firefox is clearly the browser of choice for the digerati, and it’s doubled its market share in the past few months. But can it continue?

Slashdot mulls.

(via SEW)

Joining the Architecture of Participation Party

By - December 06, 2004

With the news that Google has locked down googlereviews.com, incorporated reviews (of sorts) into Froogle, re-launched Google Groups in a bid to get competitive with Yahoo, started to update Blogger, has released desktop search (with its obvious developer platform implications), and is quickly scaling Local with mobile and the like, it’s a pretty obvious conclusion to draw: Google is joining the architecture of participation party in a big way. Like eBay and Amazon, Google will gain huge traction when it allows its own users to create value on its platform.

Not totally unrelated side note: I just got a new ping (IE, the pose was just updated in some way) on a year-old Adam Bosworth essay germane to all this. A worthy re-read. I wonder if he’s pondering this as he drives new stuff to market at Google these days…

Bharat On Google News Bias

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bharatOr lack thereof. From Wired News:

WIRED: Most news sites employ humans to try to pull together balanced content. Why not hire a few people to guard against bias?
BHARAT: Google News is not in the business of having humans regulate how much representation there is from the Republicans in response to a certain query and how much is from Democrats. Once you start doing that job, there is a huge responsibility, and we’d rather allow the natural distribution of a given query to surface. I think that having people look at the hundreds of thousands of articles that come in every day is just not practical. Bias may have happened once or twice on certain queries. I don’t think the problem is widespread….The truth is, Google News doesn’t have a point of view. It’s a computer, and computers do not understand these topics the way humans do and can’t be systematically biased in any direction.

Bharat is the lead developer of Google News. I have to say, this issue has always stuck in my craw. While I grok the concept of a “computer having no bias,” I also fall back to the fact that somebody programmed that computer, to look for specific keywords, to do certain kinds of matching, to query certain sources and not others. The bias isn’t directly human bias, the point of view isn’t directly human point of view, but it’s nevertheless bias, is it not? Or am I missing something?

CitySearch Pushes Pay-Per-Call Forward

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phone_moneyFor local businesses dependent on the Yellow Pages economy, there’s nothing more important that the telephone, especially when it rings. The idea of uniting phone leads and search is something of a holy grail in local search, and CitySearch today announced another milestone in its quest for the same. Release in extended entry.

SiliconBeat coverage.

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We Test. No We Don't!

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From Electricnews.net, an Irish-based business and finance site, an story about Urs Holzle’s European recruitment tour.

“Nobody has tried to hook together so many PCs… You have to be able to deal with failures and make the whole system continue to work,” Holzle, one of the first 10 employees of Google, told ElectricNews.Net.

To work in such an environment, Google employees must be creative and work well in a team, and must also be the type of employee that does not take their job too seriously, he claimed. “Employment at Google should be 60 to 70 percent fun,” he said, “the rest is blood, sweat and tears.” Holzle also noted that even the company interview process is reflective of this overall attitude, claiming that prospective workers are not confronted with a test of their technical knowledge, but will be carefully judged on whether they “fit” within the Google team.

Not confronted with tests? What’s this?!

GoogleScoop

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getaclue.jpg
Not too long ago, Google Image search took an embarrassing hit for not having Abu Ghraib images. But Google has now played a central role in uncovering even more images of military abuse. Boing Boing has the full story. Net net: an AP reporter stumbled across these images on a photo sharing site. One would think after Abu Ghraib, taking picture of yourself lording over prisoners would be pretty much verboten. Uploading them to a photosharing site? Beyond stupid.

What Can One Man Learn in Five Years?

By - December 03, 2004

accoonaI was going to stay away from posting today, and focus on writing. But I passed my daily word count already, so here’s a treat. Eckhard Pfeiffer, who ran Compaq but was run out on a rail in 1999, is coming back to Chair a business search engine, Accoona.

Now, let’s remember, this is the same fellow who engineered the purchase of Alta Vista, then demanded it come public within six months. His lieutenant then drove Alta Vista into portaldom, and ultimately, into the arms of CMGI, which then imploded.

In my interviews with Louis Monier and others, I was painted quite a picture of Compaq under Pfeiffer. As I recall, Monier called them “gunslingers” who had “no idea what they were doing.”

Apparently, Pfeiffer has learned a thing or two. Maybe he’s trying to take a page from Eric Schmidt’s playbook – run a lumbering IT giant (in Schmidt’s case, Novell), then suprise the world by going to a small internet search startup. Only, Eric joined after Google was profitable, and he didn’t wait five years….Anyway. Should be interesting.

From what I could find on Accoona (note the logo has the “infinity” symbol, I guess that’s larger than googol), the company has some kind of deal with China (hot!) and uses proprietary AI techniques (so far, no so hot!). More :

Accoona is a New Jersey-based internet company devoted to making it easier for people to find information on the Web. Accoona has pioneered an innovative search engine that makes use of artificial intelligence to understand the meaning of words. Accoona’s Artificial Intelligence Search Technology enables you to highlight key words, SuperTargeting your results and delivering you the pages most relevant to that search term. Accoona’s search engine does not overlook Web pages that contain relevant information but happen not to use the precise key words you enter.

On March 1, 2005, Accoona will introduce an artificial-intelligence toolbar that lives unobtrusively on the desktop. The toolbar will allow users to search the Web intelligently as well as to search the documents on their computer. Say you want to locate an old e-mail but can’t remember the sender’s name or the precise topic, even if you provide only a vague description, the Accoona Artificial Intelligence Search Technology will find the e-mail. The Accoona toolbar is your personal librarian.

ACCOONA’S MISSION
Accoona Corp.’s mission is:

To revolutionize how people find information on the Web, through a new search engine powered by artificial intelligence that understands the meanings of words.

To provide the largest proprietary online database of information on companies worldwide.

To facilitate foreign companies doing business in China and Chinese companies expanding into the global marketplace.

Accoona is launching worldwide on December 6, 2004.

Hat tip: SEW.