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Friday Book Excerpt: More on Perfect Search

By - August 19, 2005

Thesearch Bookcover-3Long time readers may recall when I posted a thread on perfect search a year or so ago. I got so many wonderful answers, and I wove much of what I learned into my final chapter. This is a short excerpt from that chapter. Again, please send or post comments, corrections, clarifications – I already see a few things here that I would like to tweak…as usual…a book on topics like search is a never ending work…like a blog!

Search Everywhere

In the near future, search will metastasize from its origins on the PC-centric Web and be let loose on all manner of devices. This has already begun with mobile phones and PDAs; expect it to continue, viruslike, until search is built into every digital device touching our lives. The telephone, the automobile, the television, the stereo, the lowliest object with a chip and the ability to connect—all will incorporate network-aware search.

This is no fantasy; this is simple logic. As more and more of our lives become connected, digitized, and computed, we will need navigation and context interfaces to cope. What is TiVo, after all, but a search interface for television? ITunes? Search for music. That box of photographs under your bed and the pile of CDs teetering next to your stereo? Analog artifacts, awaiting their digital rebirth. How might you find that photo of you and your lover on the beach in Greece from fifteen years ago? Either you scan it in, or you lose it to the moldering embrace of analog obscurity. But your children will have no such problems; their photographs are already entirely digital and searchable—complete with metadata tagged right in (date, time, and soon, context).1

But let’s not stop our digital fantasy train yet. It may sound farfetched, but in the future, your luggage will be searchable. Within two decades, nearly everything of value to someone will be tagged with tiny computing devices, devices capable of saying, upon radiowave-based query, “I’m here, right here, and here’s what I’ve been doing while you were away.” Instead of the ubiquitous bar codes airport officials now slap onto your luggage, there’ll simply be an RFID (radio frequency ID) chip. Lost your luggage? I don’t think so. Not when you can Google your Louis Vuitton in real time.

Think about that—Google your dog, your kid, your purse, your cell phone, your car. (Do you have an E-ZPass or OnStar yet? You will.) The list quickly stretches toward the infinite. Anywhere there might be a chip, there can and most likely will be search. But for perfect search to happen, search needs to be everywhere, attached to everything.

This means that among many other things, search needs to solve what so far has been a rather intractable problem: that of the invisible Web. As Gary Price and Chris Sherman point out in their book of that name,2 the invisible Web comprises everything that is available via the Web, but has yet to be found by search engines. Deep databases of knowledge, like the University of California’s library system or the LexisNexis news and legal citation service, are walled off from search for commercial or technological reasons. And while the contents of your hard drive may be digital, they most likely have not been indexed and offered up to a search application—yet. As I pointed out earlier, all the major search engines have launched desktop search tools which index your hard drive and serve up the results much as you might see Web results. Prior to the advent of desktop search, your PC was part of the invisible Web. No longer.

Also mostly invisible, and mainly still stuck in the analog world, is what might be called the content Web. There are nearly 100 million books extant, but only several hundred thousand online as of this writing. Add to that unsearchable pile humanity’s analog archives of film, television, and periodicals.

Thanks to Napster, we’ve already got the music nut partially cracked. When Napster launched, millions of people ripped copies of their favorite music to the Web. And therein most likely lies the solution to the rest of our previously unsearchable media. For nearly every book, film, and television show, someone, somewhere, will come up with a reason to put it on the Web, assuming we can get out of our own way with regard to intellectual property issues.3 Massive archiving projects, such as Google Print, the Internet Archive, and Amazon’s Search Inside the Book, have gone a long way toward solving a piece of this problem, but they have a long, long way to go, and simple logic tells us that no one entity can (or should) archive the sum total of humankind’s information. No, when it comes to making the world searchable, the best way is to simply let the world do it.

This phenomenon has many casual monikers, but I like to call it the Force of the Many. Eventually, everything of value—including your luggage—will be connected to the Web, because to be connected is definitional to the concept of value in a wired world. As the Force of the Many weaves humanity’s belongings into the Web, search engines will weave this new content into their indexes, moving the world ever closer to the possibility of perfect search.

  • Content Marquee

Google Testing New Results

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A related query results play. IE, search for “On Demand” and get results with “Comcast” related pages. Readers had been telling me this, but I could not confirm it. Now it appears Mediapost has. This has some interesting business model implications, when you think about it – certainly Google would never do paid inclusion, but this is the kind of thing that might allow for such a move should the company fall into the hands of the Dark Side.

Update: Google PR has given me a statement on this:

Google is testing an automated technique for detecting when an alternate

query might help users find what they are looking for more quickly. For

these searches, which are both commercial and non-commercial in nature,

Google displays one or more alternate queries together with a preview of

their top results.

Another Google IPO?

By - August 18, 2005

Nah, just a secondary offering:

UPDATE: Astute reader notes that the offering amount is Pi without the three….

Google Inc. Files Registration Statement with the SEC for a Proposed

Public Offering

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – August 18, 2005 – Google Inc. (Nasdaq:

GOOG) announced today that it has filed a registration statement with

the Securities and Exchange Commission for a proposed public offering

by the company of 14,159,265 shares of Class A common stock.

The managing underwriters of the proposed offering are Morgan Stanley &

Co. Incorporated and Credit Suisse First Boston LLC, acting as joint

book-running managers, and Allen & Company LLC, acting as co-manager.

The underwriters have an option to purchase up to 600,000 additional

shares of Class A common stock from Google solely to cover

over-allotments, if any.

A copy of the prospectus relating to these securities may be obtained,

when available, from: Morgan Stanley & Co. Incorporated, Prospectus

Department, 1585 Broadway, New York, NY 10036 or Credit Suisse First

Boston LLC, Prospectus Department, One Madison Avenue, New York, NY

10010.

A registration statement relating to these securities has been filed

with the Securities and Exchange Commission but has not yet become

effective. These securities may not be sold nor may offers to buy be

accepted prior to the time the registration statement becomes

effective. This release shall not constitute an offer to sell or the

solicitation of an offer to buy nor shall there be any sale of these

securities in any state in which such offer, solicitation or sale would

be unlawful prior to registration or qualification under the securities

laws of any such state.

Yahoo Debuts New Rev of Local

By - August 17, 2005

YahoolocalaugYahoo Local has been getting better and better of late, and today Yahoo launched another rev of the service which I think comes close to redefining the idea of local from that of a search based application to that of a destination – no small feat, given all the mojo and investment inherent in the “local search” terminology.

I spoke with Paul Levine, head of Yahoo Local Search, earlier in the week and he gave me a tour through the site’s new features. What did I see that led me to this conclusion? Two things. One, a major commitment to the architecture of participation – Levine and Yahoo are committed to surfacing user-generated content wherever they can. And two, integration into the recombinant web – at one point Levine called Yahoo Local an emergent “collective wiki for local.”

I really like this idea – that of creating a platform based on a need (in this case local) – then letting the users build the service over time. While it clearly controls the dials and levers for now, Yahoo seems to be watching how folks are using the content and services they have integrated into local, then building (or rebuilding) the site as paths are laid down and choices are made by the users.

Levine said he noticed that local searches were frustrating to many because they were often too broad – a search for “San Francisco pizza” or somesuch gave too many results. So Yahoo Local is now driven by the idea of “neighborhoods” for larger cities, a concept which informs and allows all sorts of new interface executions. It also has automatically generated “city pages” which surface the most popular content based on actions of local users. The whole deal is RSS friendly.

Yahoo is leveraging its “buzz” technology in part to create these city pages, and it’s also tying in the tagging inherent to its MyWeb social search platform (which does have its problems, as SEW notes). There are many other features, like wizzy rollover stuff and expandable maps, but I’ve never really been that strong on product reviews…

A couple of thoughts on where it seems this might be heading. First, I’ve written a lot in the past about the idea of clickstreams, search history, and the like. As I was touring through Yahoo Local, it struck me that what the service was starting to do was, in effect, *not waste my time and investment* as I interacted with it.

Said another way, as a user I get the sense that the more I put into Yahoo Local (or any number of other well considered sites), the more I get out. I’m motivated to use it not simply because I get some information, find a phone number, get driving directions, but also because I sense I am contributing, through my clickstream, to the creation of a smarter service which will serve be better in the future. Also, I am participating in a community that I am part of. That, in the end, is what will drive loyalty and usage in a Web 2 world.

Secondly, and germane to where Yahoo sits strategically in a Google dominated world, Yahoo’s embrace of user-generated content sets the company apart. Yahoo is clearly pursuing a strategy of hosting content – every merchant can build a page describing its wares, every user can comment on those wares, for example. Borrowing content from the Yellow Pages (or integrating related – but not connected – content from the broader web) can only take local web search so far. The architecture of participation is what’s next.

Google’s local offering has been growing significantly of late, even though Yahoo holds a commanding lead in overall usage (one it its only such leads in a search related offering). Given how rich this area is in advertising dollars and consumer demand, expect more announcements soon…

Veronis Suhler Makes the Leap

By - August 16, 2005

From the beginning of my career in media I would watch the Veronis Suhler forecast on media, it was not only pretty considered, it was also used by most entrepreneurs to justify their next magazine launch or cable channel. At times I could not get my hands on it, but I recall early in the Wired years we used it to justify how big the technology/culture space was going to get.

This year’s report is out and apparently it delineates, for the first time, between “new” and “traditional” forms of media, and furthermore pegs the new media percentage of dollars at about 17% of all ad spending last year, growing to more than 26% by 2009. MediaPost has a report here.

The MediaPost report notes that others view Veronis’ numbers as too conservative, ad agency Carat, for example, thinks digital spending will hit 50% in two years. This all depends on what comprises “digital spending.” Digital TV? Then the 50% is an easy target. No digital TV? Then perhaps Veronis is more in line….As with every year, I’d sure love to see the full report. It runs nearly two thousand bucks though, so I’ll have to watch from the cheap seats.

Danny: Screw Size

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A fine piece of Jesus Not Again writing from Danny. I’m deep in this as well, as those of you who’ve read my previous posts know. And more is coming, but I promise, I will be brief as can be. I’m waiting to talk with a couple more folks. Danny notes he and Gary will also be posting more later in the week. I agree with Danny that relevance is key, but think it’s nearly impossible to set a standard for relevance – it’s too subjective. I disagree that size is not important. Once we can figure out how to audit and count size, it’s important, as important as UI, speed, or algorithms. It’s also important in a business sense – it’s a number that folks pay attention to and that marketers know works, and that the mainstream press will parrot. Even if you disagree with the tactics, and I do, it’s still important….

Google Earth A Threat To National Security?

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Holl 03

Some in the Dutch govt. worry about Google Earth (but not IBM or MSFT?) in this article.

Both politicians and police are concerned that certain locations in the Netherlands, such as the port of Rotterdam, the royal palace in the Hague and Amsterdam Airport, already potential terrorist targets, could be made more vulnerable to terrorists thanks to the detailed images created from satellites and aircrafts within the last three years available via Google Earth.

A9 Launches Maps

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A9MapsUdi and his team have formally tossed their hat into the mapping ring with A9 Maps. Udi has shown this at a few industry conferences, but now it’s live. It’s an interesting and pretty cool interface, you use a magnifying lens icon to scroll A9’s Block View on the right side of the page. Very You Are There. It breaks down when there are no Block View images – becomes a standard maps interface. But as usual for A9, it points out what’s possible and what might be coming….