free html hit counter October 2005 | Page 3 of 8 | John Battelle's Search Blog

GoogleBase, Craigslist, Oodle, Oh My

By - October 25, 2005

(Ongoing Thinking Out Loud based on the conversation spawned by this post)

Craigslist

Oodle-1

So my question for Craigslist is this: Once Yahoo or Google decide to do a vertical listings engine – and they will, at some point or in some fashion – will Craigslist bar them as well?

If the answer is a consistent yes, then we understand what Craigslist’s strategy is. In essence: a walled garden. They are building a self contained community that does not want to be part of the search economy. That’s fine, though I could argue at length it’s not a very wise strategy, but they have to right to pursue it.

However, right now, Craigslist is on the fence. Vertical aggregators like Indeed are OK, and extremely generalized engines like Google are OK.

This raises an interesting question with regard to GoogleBase: Will Oodle – or anyone else – be able to crawl its contents? My guess is no. While Google is extremely aggressive about its right to crawl anything it can, it will most likely act like an owner when it comes to content – and metadata – it hosts on GoogleBase.

I spoke with Oodle’s founders today, right before the GoogleBase story broke, to get an update about the ongoing Craigslist/Oodle story.

Oodle founder Craig Donato was genuinely puzzled as to why Craigslist has asked Oodle to stop – and despite the comments in the last thread, which claim Oodle is a parasite, I see his puzzlement. Why stop Oodle, but not Indeed, or other aggregators? Is it because Oodle indexes all of Craigslist? Perhaps, but where’s the harm?When you look at Oodle’s model, it’s all about pushing traffic back to Craigslist, in fact, the only way you can execute on the content you’ve found via Oodle is to go to Craigslist – a familliar model – it’s the whole premise of search.

So, if Craiglist lets Google and Yahoo crawl its listings (I presume – hard to know till Craig or Jim Buckmaster decide to engage in a conversation about this…), why does it have a problem with Oodle?

Most likely, because Craigslist sees a day when folks might go direct to Oodle to post listings, bypassing Craigslist altogether. Oodle already takes listings as a feed – clearly targeted to listings sites, rather than individuals – but that could change.

However, I think cutting off Oodle is shortsighted. It’s the content debate all over again. What should Craigslist be doing? As a user of the service, which I love by the way, I can think of a very long list.

Craigslist should focus on making its service better. Much, much better. It has a community, it has a brand, but damn if it isn’t near impossible to find stuff if you don’t already know your way around. The internal search is awful, and it’s impossible to find things across regions (unless, of course, you used Oodle, which now you can’t….). It’s also impossible to post across regions, and I sure wish you could. The interface – both for posters as well as searchers – is rudimentary and not intuitive. The better the service gets, the more unique it will be, the more valuable, and therefore the more difficult to disintermediate. In short, make the content better, and it will win. Services like Oodle will only make your content shine, just as Google News makes the NYT shine, for the most part.

A final thought on GoogleBase. If Google is really, really serious about this – that instead of going the Google News route with listings, it plans instead to get folks to post their stuff to GoogleBase – it marks a significant departure for the company: It will become a publisher, a competitor in the content creation and management game, which places it in direct competition with the multitudes who feed and feed off the main Google search engine. Watch. This. Space.

– GoogleBase update here from SEW.

  • Content Marquee

Google Makes Another China Hire

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From the release:

Johnny Chou will join Google as President, Sales and Business

Development, Greater China. In this newly created role, Chou will be

responsible for building Google’s sales and channel businesses, and

expanding the company’s strategic partnerships in the region.

Chou comes to Google from UT Starcom, where he was President of the

company’s China Operations for the past 9 years, and brings over 20

years of diverse business management experience to Google. With the

addition of Chou and the recent hire of Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, Google has

brought together two of the most respected and experienced executives

in China and their hire is a reflection of Google’s commitment to the

Chinese market.

Google search for Johnny Chou.

Joel on AdSense

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Joel Spolsky is a well known software guru, and the man can write, making him something of a hero for folks like me. But he rarely opines on Google. Today he takes on click fraud and spam blogs. Worth a read.

There might be a technical solution to this, although I can’t think of one offhand. The minute companies start cutting checks to “affiliates” at the end of the month that are based on nothing more than clicks, you’re bound to get the AllAdvantage phenomenon. AllAdvantage was probably one of the most spectacularly stupid business ideas to come out of the first Dot Com bubble: a company that paid you to look at ads. That’s because they fell victim to one of the better business ideas from the first Dot Com bubble: hiring armies of low-paid workers to look at AllAdvantage ads.

Eventually, it stops benefiting the advertiser, and the advertiser figures it out, and stops paying for the whole charade.

Google repeatedly says that clickfraud is not an issue, and we keep hearing from folks – advertisers, publishers, etc. – that it is. I wonder if this will ever go away?

base.google.com (Or…All Your Base Are Belong To Google)

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55908013 C00F7A76B9Word is ripping around the web that Google is testing a new subdomain called base.google.com. A screen shot – the site has been up and down – shows a Google database of sorts where you can “Post your items on Google.” It’s a tagged database of stuff that heads directly into the world of Paul Ford’s classic “Google Takes All” essay.

Apparently this will be debuted at Google’s invite only Zeitgeist conference today. Philipp has more.

Last Minute: Book Passages

By - October 24, 2005

Last minute note – in other words, I forgot to mention – but I am doing what may be my last official book tour reading tonight on my home turf of Marin, at the Corte Madera Book Passages. 7 pm, here’s a link to it on Yahoo Maps.

Though this marks the last official book reading, what I have come to realize is that the tour really never ends. Loads of folks have come calling asking me to come and speak, and I am trying to do as much as I can. And I still get to go to London next month for the FT book award. Cool!

An MSN Search Grok

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We have not heard that much from MSN, but that is changing. Gary notes a video from Scoble in which a few MSN search geeks rap about their engine.

A Busca

By - October 22, 2005

AbuscaOK, this is entirely self referential, but I just love seeing the cover of my book in Portuguese. Here’s the Brazilian version of The Search – a Busca. I must say, the Brazilian press has been a joy to work with.

$94, er, $106 Billion

By - October 21, 2005

Google MoneyThat’s a very large market cap. Today is a quiet posting day, for various reasons, but I did find the time to step into a CNBC studio and mull why Google seems to be pulling away from everyone else in search related earnings. My really, brilliant, over the top observation? Google is the leader in search. Since it has more searches than anyone else….it has more earnings. It also seems to be better at monetizing its searches, though exactly how is anyone’s guess…

Also, notably, Google is pulling in more and more searches on its own google.com site, which of course are the most profitable kind of searches there are. No pesky publishers to whom you must pay TAC. Just pure marginy goodness. Now do you understand why they are pushing the Toolbar?! (Besides that long term idea of knowing loads about you so they can personalize search, of course…)

A few tidbits from the earnings worth mentioning, many from Comscore data that Street analysts are quoting:

Average revenue per search (yes, any kind of search, not just paid): 12 cents. It was around a dime in late 04.

Avg. revenue per searcher: $7

Avg. revenue per sponsored click: 62 cents.

Estimated profits for Google in 06: Roughly $4 billion (Bear Stearns) (which is about the same as their forecasted annual revenues this year, FWIW)

Revenue growth of Google year to year: 96%

Of Yahoo: 42%

Estimated revenue growth for next year for Google (Bear): 61%

For the average of eBay, Yahoo, and Amazon: 29%

Price target for GOOG (Piper): $445

Number of shares Battelle owns (For all of you who keep asking): 0

Also: Number of employees added in the past year: Nearly 2000

Amount spent on capex, 05 (estimate): $800 million

Amount MSFT is estimated to spend: $810 million

Hummmm….

Google Earnings:

By - October 20, 2005

More holy sh*t numbers from Google. Bloomberg:

Google Inc., the No. 1 Internet search engine, said profit jumped sevenfold, surpassing analysts’ estimates, as new mapping and instant messaging features attracted users and the company added advertising space. The shares gained 8.4 percent.

Third-quarter net income rose to $381.2 million, or $1.32 a share, from $52 million, or 19 cents, a year earlier, Mountain View, California-based Google said today in a statement. Net revenue doubled to $1.05 billion, topping the $944 million average estimate in a Thomson Financial analyst survey.

Google’s release here.

The AAP/Google Lawsuit: Much More At Stake

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Book Open-1I spent some time yesterday and this morning speaking with Allan Alder, counsel for the AAP (see my initial post on this here). I came away convinced of what I initially suspected but so far had not stated: this is a far bigger issue than simply book publishers wanting to protect their business models (though there’s plenty of that in here as well.)

Today David Drummond, counsel at Google, posted another missive in the ongoing communications battle over this issue. In it he positions Google as the innovator which is making incumbents nervous, a position that certainly has a long history (he quotes the Sony Betamax/VCR case) as well as plenty of support amongst the technology elite.

We think you should be able to search through every word of every book ever written, and come away with a list of relevant books to buy or find at your local library. We aim to make that happen, but to do so we’ll need to build and maintain an index containing all this information.

It’s no surprise that this idea makes some publishers nervous, even though they can easily remove their books from the program at any time. The history of technology is replete with advances that first met wide opposition, later found wide acceptance, and finally were widely regarded as having been inevitable all along.

But there are a few larger issues percolating here that bear discussion. First, who is making the money? Second, who owns the rights to leverage this new innovation – the public, the publisher, or … Google? Will Google make the books it scans available for all comers to crawl and index? Certainly the answer seems to be no. Google is doing this so as to make its own index superior, and to gain competitive advantage over others. That leaves a bad taste in the publisher’s mouths – they sense they are being disintermediated, and further, that Google is reinterpreting copyright law as they do it.

And this is not just about books. If Google – and by extension, anyone else – can scan and index books without permission, why can’t they also scan and index video? Look at who owns the book companies that are suing – ahhh, it’s Newscorp (Harper Collins), Viacom (Simon&Schuster), Time Warner (Little Brown).

As I said, I plan more posts/pieces on this, as the issues raised – of innovation, of intellectual property rights, of business models, of more perfect search – are fascinating. But they are also nuanced in that they reflect some of our most treacherous technology/policy debates: the tension between DRM and innovation, between a creator’s rights and the public good, between open and closed (the Craigslist/Oodle debate, for example, is very much related to this).

After staring at this for a day or so, it’s clear to me that this case will go to court. No one wants to settle. Google is digging in, and so is the media world. Folks, we have a real battle on our hands.