On the subject of why he thinks engines are doing a poor job, (using a hotel search as an example), he asks:
So, what COULD search engines do? Well, first, give me some choices at the top of the page. Why couldn’t search engines ask you these questions:
1) “are you looking for hotels in New York or named New York?”
2) Are you looking for hotels with free Wifi?
3) Are you looking for hotels with great views?
4) Are you looking for hotels nearby major tourist destinations?
5) Are you looking for hotels with above average ammenities like super large bathtubs, well stocked minibars, etc.?
This reminds me of the passage in the book with Gary Flake, who is now – huh – at Microsoft (he was at Yahoo when I spoke to him). “If only I could have one more modal dialog….” In other words, he wished searchers were more like Scoble – sure of what they wanted, and willing to engage in a dialog with the search engine. Most, it turns out, are not.
More freely available content can only be a good thing. From the release:
The Internet Archive, Yahoo! Inc., Adobe Systems Inc., the European Archive, HP Labs, the National Archives (UK), O’Reilly Media Inc., Prelinger Archives, the University of California, and the University of Toronto, today announced the formation of the Open Content Alliance (OCA) http://opencontentalliance.org, a global consortium focused on providing open access to content while respecting the rights of copyright holders. The OCA will provide a wide range of material including cultural, historical and technological digitized print and multimedia content from libraries, archives and publishers. Content will be hosted in a single, permanent repository and complete works will be searchable and downloadable for free by anyone.
….Yahoo! will power the search engine on the OCA website and all OCA content will be made available through Yahoo! Search, further bolstering the comprehensiveness of its index. Once content is available through the OCA, any search engine will be able to index it. This takes a significant step in expanding the deep web, the millions of Web sites containing content that search engines typically cannot access, as well as advances the global sharing of knowledge.
Look for Yahoo! to unveil a response to Google’s blog search early next week. This from Bradley Horowitz, director of tech development in the company’s search group. He wouldn’t provide details in advance. And it could be that Yahoo’s announcement will cover only one aspect of blog or RSS search, and not the comprehensive release the search industry’s waiting for.
This story – “Assessing Battelle’s 10 1996 predictions for 2006 tech” – has been forwarded to me many times. I guess that’s the downside of being in this biz for so long – it’s entirely plausible that I made a bunch of predictions in 1996 for 2006. Only, I didn’t. The Battelle Institute, a company that does a bunch of work for the government and is very remotely related to my family (like four generations ago, two brothers split up, one went west, one did not…), made these predictions. I am sure I was making predictions back then, but thank goodness, I can’t remember them.
Nuance Communications, a Menlo Park maker of speech-recognition software, has sued Yahoo for unfair competition and theft of trade secrets, accusing the Internet giant of raiding all but one of Nuance’s research and development engineers. Nuance said 13 engineers from its Menlo Park and Montreal offices were 75 percent finished with a project that would allow people to search the Internet by speaking their queries into a telephone, rather than typing them on a computer keyboard.
Google Inc. has offered to blanket San Francisco with free wireless Internet access at no cost to the city, placing a marquee name behind Mayor Gavin Newsom’s effort to get all residents online whether they are at home, in a park or in a cafe.
The offer by the popular Mountain View search engine was one of more than a dozen competing bids received by the city before its deadline Friday. Officials will review the submissions and decide which, if any, of the candidates gets the green light to build the so called Wi-Fi service, which would be free or inexpensive for users.
Yesterday I once again drove down to Google, but this time it wasn’t to do a set of interviews for the book, it was to read from the book to perhaps the most demanding audience I’ve ever encountered – a room full of Googlers, nearly 200 in all.
I was a bit nervous. While I think the book is fair, and clearly acknowledges the importance and power of Google, it also has more than its fair share of reporting on the negative aspects of the company’s astonishing rise – from privacy concerns to allegations of arrogance and self dealing. Would I be booed off the campus?
It didn’t help my anxiety to see a gaggle of folks in the audience who also were in the book or helped me in one way or another – from Louis Monier and Peter Norvig to Raymond Nasr, Steve Langdon, and Eric Case.
But my concern was overblown. I had a great time, and I think the folks in attendance did too. I read selections from the early years, as well as my riff on the future of Google. And the questions, man, the questions were challenging and very, very thoughtful. They ranged from “if we build the Google Grid, and succeed, what do we do then?” (answer – I have no idea!) to “What would you do if you were running Google?” (answer: buy a video asset and set it free, more on that soon). Another good question: “What might make Google fail?” I wrote about that in the book – two things – one is lack of direction – when you encourage thousands of folks to dream and provide them the chance to execute on those dreams, a company can lose focus. And the other is simply managing growth – the company is hiring more than ten folks a day.
At the end, Eric Schmidt came up and said hello, and we chatted about the book and my visit. I signed a lot of books, and I asked each person who came up what division they worked in and how long they’d been there. The average time of duty? About six months. A very young, very fast growing company indeed.
I am very thankful to Karen Wickre for inviting me down. It was the highlight of the book tour so far. Of course, week after next I am going to Microsoft and Amazon. That should be interesting as well!