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Chat With Perry Evans of Aptas

By - May 23, 2005

AptasHere at D I got a chance to talk with Perry Evans, a mapping and local search entrepreneur who is working on a new company called Aptas. Aptas is working to re-structure yellow pages data to make local search more relevant. The company is partnering with several yellow pages companies (Dex, for example) to bring a new kind of local search site to market, and Evans makes a pretty convincing case as to why Yahoo, IAC, Google, et al don’t necessarily have the market sewed up. He also makes a good case as to why the yellow pages still matter (I certainly have written them off from time to time).

For one, he points out that most yellow pages companies are now owned by LBO/private equity firms, and therefore have access to very deep pockets and a very real desire to leverage the yellow pages’ assets into new, high growth markets. Clearly, local search is such a market. In other words, the yellow pages are no longer run by sclerotic RBOC managers, but rather rapacious financiers looking to take their properties public, and to do that, they need a growth story.

Secondly, Evans points out that there are plenty of ways to find distribution beyond the portals – including and especially mobile. In other words, just because we go to Yahoo Local now, does not mean we will in the future, especially if someone has a better solution. Evans claims to be working on such a solution, and expects to roll it out (in partnership with Dex) this Fall. He’s also working on combining local search and web with 411/information over cel phones. Sign me up for that.

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Google Is Not Limitless

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GooglelimtsYeah, this is old news, but I’ve been thinking about Google’s web accelerator. As you recall, Google introduced this in early May, but a week later stopped downloads, claiming that it had reached capacity for the time being. Not everyone was buying that as the reason. The web accelerator was derided by many webmasters for various implementation drawbacks, and when Google halted the beta distribution, many smelled the same kind of disingenuous spin that they heard with the Google News/China incident. Many believed that Google pulled the program because of the webmaster’s complaints, and manufactured the “capacity” issue as a coverup.

I’m not so sure. A very credible source insists that, for now anyway, Google simply can’t handle the load. “(Google) ran out of bandwidth,” the source told me. “It’s as simple as that.”

While Google certainly does have an extraordinary infrastructure, it is not limitless, and I think this move proves it.

Clickfraud Clearinghouse

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Gary reports:

Three of the attorneys involved in the click fraud class action lawsuit that Danny blogged about last month have started a web-based clearinghouse that will contain information about the case and links to articles about click fraud.

The site is called

Jobs On Suing Bloggers

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JobsLast night Steve Jobs gave a great interview with Kara and Walt, and I was with him for most of it – with him as he railed against the walled gardens of cable and mobile phone operators, with him as he showed really cool new iTunes/RSS/Podcasting integration, with him as he dodged questions about whether Apple was going to get into the video market. But then he started justifying his decision to sue a few bloggers for leaking Apple’s product plans. He claims that no one has the right to publish confidential information just because they can, and so far, the courts are agreeing with him.

I say, fuck that. I’ve stayed out of this one because it’s orthogonal to search, but it’s directly related to my ability to do my job, and I am not alone. At the core of this case is a clear attempt to draw a line between professional and amateur journalism, and as a practitioner of both, I have to say it’s a very dangerous line to be drawing. Should the courts decide whether the next Tom Paine has to work at the Wall Street Journal before he starting cranking out his pamphlets? I don’t think so.

When I was 25 years old,I was a young, untrained reporter at MacWeek, a new Macintosh trade publication. I cultivated as many sources inside the industry as I could, trying to get scoops about what Apple might be doing next. My readers were volume buyers at corporations who were eager to know what was next, so they could plan their purchasing.

Through a source, I got my hands on an early prototype of a new machine, called the Mac IIci, which was Apple’s major play in corporate America. I took it apart, had some engineers stare at it for a while, and wrote up a cover story, including a photograph of the motherboard. I was told later that corporate sales at Apple tanked for a while, as folks waited for the hot new machine.

So, why didn’t they sue me? One reason: Jobs wasn’t running the company then. Jobs would claim that I was working at a “real publication” – it was owned by Ziff Davis at the time – but I have to say, most bloggers today are far more qualified to run a story like the Mac IIci scoop than I was back then.

During the Q&A, someone asked him about another dumb move: pulling all Wiley books from his Apple Stores because he didn’t like an unathorized biography Wiley published. Why did he do that, the questioner asked. “I didn’t want to do business with them,” he answered. He has that right. But then he added: “People can publish whatever they want to publish.” I guess so, as long as they are “real publishers.”

Forcing journalism into some kind of a “qualified” box is a very bad idea. Jobs vowed at the conference to take this issue to the Supreme Court if necessary. I hope he does, and I for one plan to fight him the whole way there. If you agree, help EFF work on this issue. Thanks.

Gates Shows Mostly Search At D

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Msn Virtual Earth Eagle EyeGates is speaking now and showing stuff that looks an awful lot like Google Satellite/Earth. In fact, most of his talk was search related. He’s integrated some very detailed views into his demo, down to much more resolution than Keyhole currently shows. “Local and mapping are coming together as one,” he says.

The difference between Google and MSFT’s satellite stuff? “We started the satellite thing ten years ago,” he said, somewhat defensively. “If it touches on search, we’re going to do it, Google’s going to do it, Yahoo’s going to do it.”

Gates also showed a search/homepage personalization tool that looks a lot like the recent stuff from Google (which looks a lot like the old stuff from Yahoo). I won’t go into details, but will udpate with links if there is coverage….

Update: They actually announced “MSN Virtual Earth” at the conference. Details in extended entry. Link when it goes up. The image at left is from their “45 degree” angle. Pretty cool.

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At D

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I’m at the Wall St. Journal’s D Conference today and Tuesday, last night was a discussion with Steve Jobs (he showed off Tiger’s new Spotlight search, among other things). I’ll have much more to report soon, if any Searchbloggers are here, track me down!

Bloglines Blog Search a-Comin'

By - May 20, 2005

Bloglines-2Mark promises BusinessWeek a summer release of an engine that will “world-class blog search, which we don’t think exists now.”

I do agree, that much as I love the current options, they are a bit slow and hard to use sometimes. And the whole world has wondered why the big G or Y don’t have a blog flavored search vertical. We’ll have three by August, methinks.

Given My Inclination…

By - May 19, 2005

…to berate Google for not having any strategic center, this post from Marissa makes my list as an instant classic. From it:

Does Google have a strategy, or are we just a bunch of mad computer scientists running around building whatever we want? Today this question gets an answer: we’ve launched our personalized homepage via Google Labs.

I’m not sure that’s an answer, but it’s certainly the start of something.