free html hit counter January 2005 - John Battelle's Search Blog

Welcome to the Party, MSFT!

By - January 31, 2005

MsnsearchMicrosoft is taking its homegrown engine outta beta and going live today, adding a few neat bells and whistles along the way. I was under embargo till 9 pm tonight, but come on, the NYT is reporting it already.

I can’t offer a reasonable review of the site out of the box, but a list of the new features is at least a start:

– Even more focus on “answers” via Encarta Premium content, which is now free (well, for first use anyway. The engine has added more Encarta content in general).

– Support for RSS search feeds.

– New design, and incorporation into all of MSN, the Messenger IM client, and the MSN Toolbar.

MSFT will be spending some marketing money on promoting its new search engine, I was told in a briefing last week. Let’s hope it’s better than the MSN marketing of past years…

Net net: Watch for Microsoft to start really cranking now that it has a platform upon which to build. (In the Times piece, Gates is quoted: “There is a tremendous opportunity for rapid innovation here…and the great thing about the launch of MSN Search is that we now have a strong platform in place that will enable us to begin to deliver those innovations to consumers.”)

(Also, and aside, I missed this Davos session as I had to leave early, but Gates apparently once again took search as his pitard, then hoisted away. Last year, he said “Google kicked our butt,” this year, it was “We were as stupid as hell.”)

Like Yahoo before it, Microsoft can now embark on its own path, and I expect we’ll see a lot of innovation coming out of Redmond. That’s good for everyone. Welcome to the party (officially), MSFT! Now it gets interesting….

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How can the computer become more like your friend?

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So asks Craig Silverstein, my favorite JAM* quotemiester, in this FT article.

“It’s clear that a list of links, though very useful, doesn’t match the way people give information to each other,” says Mr Silverstein. The question that he says Google – like others – is now trying to address is: “How can the computer become more like your friend when answering your questions?”

That means giving direct answers to questions, extracting data from online sources rather than giving links to web pages. It also means doing a better job of divining what the searcher is looking for, tailoring results more closely to what, based on past experience, appear to be the user’s particular interests.

A focus on answers? Hmmm. Sounds like Yahoo, AOL, and MSFT’s approach. Not to mention, Ask…

*JAM: Joints After Midnight.

Conferences Ahoy!

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EtechEarlier this month we set the dates fro Web 2.0, the second edition. So mark your calendars – Oct. 5-7th, in San Francisco. Details to come!

Meanwhile, I want to use this space to plug another great event. It’s called eTech, and it’s pretty much the kissing cousin of Web 2.0. eTech is where the seeds of new and interesting technologies are first discovered, whilst Web 2.0 is where they take root in the soil of business. Of course you should go to both, but eTech is coming up first. It’s another conference from the great folks at O’Reilly, who I work with on Web 2.0.

In any case, Rael Dornfest, program chair and O’Reilly CTO, has graciously given me a registration discount code to pass along to you all for the event, which will be held March 14-17 in San Diego.

The code is “et05sb” – just head to the registration site and plug it in. It will add another 5% discount to the already discounted early reg fee.

And by the way, Rael has a great site, and riffed on A9/Amazon’s news last week. He has a cool idea for Amazon – check it out!

Johnson and Search – No, Exploring

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SjnytThe ever wonderful Steven Johnson riffs in the NYT about a tool he’s been using for a few years in his writing, one that we probably all wish we had.

The raw material the software relies on is an archive of my writings and notes, plus a few thousand choice quotes from books I have read over the past decade: an archive, in other words, of all my old ideas, and the ideas that have influenced me….

…The other day I ran a search that included the word ”sewage” several times. Because the software knows the word ”waste” is often used alongside ”sewage” it directed me to a quote that explained the way bones evolved in vertebrate bodies: by repurposing the calcium waste products created by the metabolism of cells.

That might seem like an errant result, but it sent me off on a long and fruitful tangent into the way complex systems — whether cities or bodies — find productive uses for the waste they create. It’s still early, but I may well get an entire chapter out of that little spark of an idea.

Steven emailed me that he has a longer explanation of his software and process on his site, here.

Catching Up

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Man. Traveling for 28 hours straight, then staying up two nights in a row for a best friend’s 40th can certainly get in the way of work. But I’m back, and much to report.

I’ll be chewing through old news over the next day or so, but honestly, won’t report much of it, as my book is due very shortly and I have another, final chapter to finish. However, a few things to note.

Cnet reports from a Harvard conference. Quote: ” “Google led the way in clarity in advertising,” said Mark Kroese, general manager of information services at Microsoft’s MSN. “We weren’t separating results (from ads) a year and a half ago, and since we’ve begun doing so, the response from both users and advertisers has been huge. Google proved that if you have clarity, people respond.””

Cnet also reports on how Google must be losing its cutting edge status, because the “OC” cast is now using A9. OK. In any case, Apple beat out Google for top brand this year, more a statement of Apple’s prominence with the mini and the iPod than any failing of Google’s, which had the top spot since 2002.


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I’m on my way back from Davos, after four days of mind bending interaction. I’d love to do a long post, but I have to leave shortly to drive to Zurich, then fly to SF. So perhaps later. Suffice to say, search was all over this conference, in ways both subtle and overt. Larry, Sergey and Eric of Google were all here, I got to spend some quality time with Sergey today, finishing the last part of my reporting on the book’s final chapter.

The number of extraordinary folks here, combined with their diversity of view points and backgrounds – I met folks from all parts of the world – really does mitigate the otherwise rather unnerving reality of the world’s leaders all conferring in an exclusive ski resort in Switzerland.

Tonight I attended a Davos dinner on blogging, it was a great conversation, more on Davos in general here.

In any case, I will be traveling for the next 36 hours, so posting will be…light.