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

Mobissimo Does One Box

By - November 30, 2005


No doubt this project was hastened by Google’s new approach to travel search. From the release:

Mobissimo One-Box Search technology allows customers to find online travel deals even more quickly and easily as it eliminates the need for customers to check multiple boxes, click calendars or type text in forms to obtain the best fares and rates for airfare, hotels and car rentals. Mobissimo’s One-Box Search processes information in just the way that consumers think. The user merely types in the departure city, the destination city and the dates.

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Thinking About Google and The Turning Point

By - November 29, 2005

Gates1995TimeHas the worm turned? That’s the question a lot of folks are asking about Google theseTimegates1999 days, not the least of which is John Heilemann, whose piece has opened up a great discussion in the comments area of my post about it. As we often do, John and I beat this question around a bit this morning, and an interesting comparison came about. John, who wrote an excellent book on Microsoft called Pride Before the Fall, reminded me that while most peg Microsoft’s fall from its glory days to the attenuating DOJ trial of the late 1990s, the company’s true fall from grace came before that trial, when first the digerati, then the company’s potential partners started losing trust in Microsoft.

Why? John pegs it to a seminal 1997 Wall Street Journal article about the company in which Nathan Myhrvold (former MSFT CTO) speaks of his company taking a “vig” on nearly every transaction across the Internet. A year or so before that article, while managing editor of Wired, I met with Nathan. He pitched me his vision of Microsoft enabling – and profiting from – all commerce on the web (I wrote the meeting up for HotWired, but can’t find the damn link…). In any case, I recall Nathan taking out his wallet and slapping it on the table, and confidently predicting that anything you did with a wallet, Microsoft would own online. I was struck by the arrogance of such a claim, and the confidence with which he made it….I really believed that Microsoft was going to own ecommerce, and it both scared and fascinated me. Turns out, I was not alone.

As we discussed the finer points of the AAP lawsuit, John noted that Google is coming close to a “worm turning” moment – a moment when the world realizes that the company is *too powerful* and its ambitions are *too great.* When such a genie arrives, it is very, very hard to put back in the bottle. The one all encompassing difference, of course, is that Google has real competition – Microsoft in 1997 did not – but regardless, the cultural vibe is striking in its similarity. Remember in 1995, when Microsoft was literally at the top of its game, lauded on the covers of national magazines for saving the US economy via its launch of Windows 95? When Gates and Co. were heralded as ushering in a new era of digitized possibility?

I sure do. In seven short years, Google has gone from a geeky startup with one good idea into an agenda-shaping player responsible for navigating complex relationships with world governments, the personal privacy of millions, major trade organizations, and hundreds of thousands of businesses small and large. It’s an extraordinary weight to bear, it seems to me. It’s the kind of position that requires a balanced mixture of leadership, will, and diplomacy. There’s very little room for the go-it-alone mentality which got the company to where it stands today. Can the company shift its culture and avoid the fate which ultimately hobbled Microsoft? That, more than anything else, will define the next chapter in the company’s fascinating story.

Vivisimo CEO on Personal Search

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Raul Valdes-Perez of Vivisimo begs to differ with all the hype around personalized search (including in my book), and the idea of major engines mining your clickstream to better understand your intent (and give you more personalized ads, of course). In a short paper outlining his views, (PDF download), he outlines five major problems with personalized search and concludes:

…. search personalization is likely to waste the talents of top computer

scientists. It may even give worse results…

Loads O New Features

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Google is accelerating the pace of change in both its results and its home page. Many readers have emailed me recently with tips, here are a few:


First, “Personalized Home” is now standard on the home page, up on the top right. This is an attempt to push more of us toward using its portal Fusion.


Also, many have noticed the new way Google is clustering results based on similar phrases. Try searches for President’s Day Weekend, for example. And lastly, as I’ve noted before, Google continues to push adoption of its Toolbar, now with banner ads for it at the bottom of results (thanks Peter).


Halsey Swivels

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As reported by PaidContent, Halsey Minor, founder of Cnet and Grand Central, has recapped GC and turned it into an online advertising/campaign management company, Swivel. More here.

Heilemann on Googlephobia

By - November 28, 2005

For his New York column, John keys off the AAP lawsuit:

The signs are everywhere. In France, Jacques Chirac has ordered his minions to gin up a French and German search engine—on the grounds that Google is (wait for it) a tool of U.S. cultural imperialism. In Bentonville, Arkansas, Wal-Mart board members admit to keeping a wary eye on Google—whose capacity to alert shoppers to better bargains elsewhere is seen as a burgeoning threat. Even out in Silicon Valley, reproachful accusations are hurled that the once-beloved leader of the Internet resurgence has taken on a dark Microsoftian cast.

He quotes AAP Pat Schroeder:

“Alan Murray wrote a column in the Wall Street Journal that called Google’s business model a new kind of feudalism: The peasants produce the content; Google makes the profits,” she informs me, then ladles on an extra helping of ominous foreboding. “Do we really want one corporation controlling all the content in the world?”

Then explains how the case turns on interpretation of fair use:

Who’s right? Impossible to say. By all accounts, the law of fair use is mind-bendingly complex: “There are parts of it that I don’t understand, and I’ve been studying it for years,” says Lawrence Lessig, the Stanford intellectual-property guru. Like virtually everyone involved in the dispute—he’s a vocal Google backer—Lessig allows that there are precedents that point in each direction. But he also acknowledges that the legal issues are in some respects peripheral, for the battle is actually being fueled by factors at once more venal and more visceral.

And then gets into the real business at hand:

If Google were to stick to its pledges about how it would employ the megadatabase of books that it’s constructing, the book business would likely benefit. But publishers don’t believe that Google can be relied on to keep its word. They fear that the company, which has made a mint off a technology, the Internet, that publishers still only vaguely comprehend, will someday abandon its putative adherence to just-the-snippets fair use and screw the publishers with their pants on.

As usual, a fun and worthwhile read.

Om Looks at the "Return of the Eyeballs"

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According to Om, Boing Boing is worth $34 million. Who knew?


Full article here. From it:

Based on recent high-profile Web content deals, the value of a unique monthly website visitor currently hovers around $38 (the average purchase price per unique user of acquisitions during the past year). As a result, those who built popular websites over the last few years look prescient: They “bought” eyeballs when the market placed little value on them — making daily blog posts or encouraging others to upload text and photos — and can now sell their traffic at a markup.

While I don’t doubt the math – there are plenty of comps and Om has ’em all in the piece – I’m not convinced. Of course, I have a stake in all of this, what with FM and my involvement with Boing Boing. But we’ve been around awhile, and so far not many folks have come offering thirty million plus. Why? I’m guessing because buyers are smart enough to realize that Boing Boing and sites like it are unique voices with fierce attitudes about content and the author/audience relationship. It’d be pretty hard to buy that and simply shove a big dancing flash ad in there and make your investment back – you’d lose the very thing you bought it for – the audience. It’s harder, but ultimately more profitable, to run sites like this as smaller, profitable businesses for a while, at least until the marketing approaches emerge that are accepted and embraced by author, advertiser, and audience alike. That takes time and experimentation, not a rush to sale. But it sure is fun to dream….

Tivo Bringing Search to Ads

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Tivo-1The bricks keep getting laid in my TV/Search scenario. The WSJ (paid reg) (update free link is now avail) reports that Tivo is partnering with several large agencies to bring topic-specific search to TV advertisements.

From the piece:

People who watch traditional television are forced to view commercials in random fashion, regardless of what they may be interested in buying, says Tom Rogers, TiVo’s president and chief executive. “We’re flipping the dynamic,” he says, allowing TiVo subscribers to search for ads that match their interests. “If you are in the market for a product, and you have no idea when commercials related to that kind of product are going to appear, it doesn’t help you very much,” he adds.

TiVo users will be able to set up a profile of products on their television screens by clicking on categories such as automotive or travel or typing in keywords such as “BMW” or “cruises.” On a regular basis, TiVo will then download relevant commercials to TiVo recorders over the Internet or, for those users who don’t have broadband, send the video via traditional broadcast signals. The commercials will appear on-screen in a folder next to the list of television shows TiVo users record.

Advertisers, in turn, will be able to select the keywords and categories with which they wish to be associated for their ads. TiVo is in discussions with advertising agencies about the best way to price such advertising, but one option is to let advertisers bid on keywords as they do when buying ads on Internet search engines.

The Search In Japanese

By - November 27, 2005

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The Search has debuted in Japanese. Editions are coming out in around ten countries, so far. I sure wish I could read Japanese so I could see how the book is selling…