free html hit counter December 2005 - Page 5 of 9 - John Battelle's Search Blog

Google Steps Into Music Search

By - December 15, 2005

But as per usual, Google’s approach is to not have business deals with anyone around the intent of researching, finding, and obtaining music. I honestly think that at some point this will change. SEW has a good write up with comparisons to other engine’s approaches.

In the book I spend a few pages comparing how Yahoo does music search vs. Google. The one box shortcut was a big difference, as was the fact that with Yahoo, you can actually buy the music. Google has now addressed the one box, and is also making it easy to buy music, though from partners they seem to have chosen at random (the best or the most popular music sales sites on the web, much as they have with travel and other categories).

Google’s blog post.

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It's A Bloggin' Smackdown: Jeremy (Yahoo) v. Cutts (Google)

By - December 14, 2005

Matt and Jeremy are having a swell disagreement and we all get to watch.

The topic: Selling links.

Jeremy: I’ve experimented with AdSense an YPN in various forms. I’ve tried paid job listings (never worked out, which is a story for another day). I’ve used’s affiliate program. I’ve even tried AdWords. And each time along the way it’s been a useful exercise. Sometimes it works well, other times not. My success rate has been rather mixed so far.

However, my latest test (sponsored links) seems to have stirred the pot a bit. …

I’m a little (but not completely) surprised by this.

Matt: Just to be clear: it’s Jeremy’s site. Of course he can try any experiment he wants (YPN, AdSense, BlogAds, AdBrite, Chitika, Amazon affiliate program, selling links with nofollow, selling links without nofollow, offering flying lessons to the 10,000th visitor, selling pixels, auctioning lemurs, etc.) to make money. Many such experiments cause no problems for search engines. But if a web site does use a technique that can potentially cause issues, it’s understandable that search engines will pursue algorithmic and manual approaches to keep our quality high.

Matt says selling PageRank is wrong. I agree. But arguably Google is penalizing folks who might *appear* to be selling links, as well as folks who might be selling links for perfectly good reasons. This I think is bad. In short, one could argue that Google is penalizing folks who don’t use Google for paid links. The debate rages on….

(Thanks, Joseph…)

An Absolutely Self Interested Post

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Thesearch Bookcover-SantaSeveral readers have sent me mail telling me how they’ve purchased The Search as a Holiday gift for office mates or family and friends. A couple have even sent boxes of them to me so I can personalize them for the office. That makes me a happy happy author.

It struck me that I should perhaps promote the book as a good Holiday gift right here on my site. After all, if anyone might appreciate such a plea, it’d be you guys. So here’s my offer. If you want, buy the book and then let me know you did. In the body of the email, write a short inscription you’d like printed on a book plate (a sticker/label) and I’ll print it on the label, sign it, and mail it to you (include your mailing address as well). That solves the problem of sending the book back and forth, now I just have to mail a label to you. Then you can stick the label on the inside cover or first blank page of the book. Voila, a personalized holiday gift!

If you think this sounds cool, why then first buy the book on Amazon or wherever, then email me with your address, message, and perhaps a snippet of the purchase confirmation email (so that I can see that you actually bought the book). I promise to do as many as I can before Christmas….

PS – The Search is being published in 13 countries so far, including Brazil, Latvia, Hungary, France, Germany, Spain, China, Korea, Japan, and the UK. Wow!

Update: The Economist has named The Search as one of the best books of the year. w00000t!!!!

My Time at eBay

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EbaylogotmYesterday I got a chance to talk with a room full of eBay folks, and it was a bit different than my time at Yahoo, Google, Amazon, or Microsoft. I’ve always viewed eBay as a more buttoned up and, well, corporate company, perhaps because Meg Whitman is such a Wall St. icon.

After I ran through some passages of the book and told a few stories, we got to a pretty robust Q&A (one attendee, Alan Lewis, wrote it up here). A lot of questions about Google, not surprisingly, given the Base announcement.

One interesting question was “What should we (eBay) be doing that we’re not doing right now?” I thought for a while and it struck me that the answer was “experimenting.” Google has a whole culture based on that idea, and Yahoo has been doing a lot of it lately. And Amazon, well, Alexa’s news was very keenly watched in the halls of eBay yesterday.

Where the real experimentation is happening on eBay is with its developers, who are building all sorts of interesting companies on top of eBay’s web services APIs and platform. But the company itself is not well known for creating interesting new web widgets. With the purchase of Skype, however, and the need to grow beyond its core offerings, I sensed from my conversation there that this may change, and soon.

Search Numbers

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As seen on Mediapost:

WEB USERS CONDUCTED MORE THAN 5.1 billion search queries in October–marking a 15 percent increase from June, according to a Nielsen//NetRatings report released Tuesday. Google maintained its leadership position, garnering 2.4 billion search requests, or almost half–48 percent–of all searches. Yahoo! accounted for 21.8 percent of all searches, followed by Microsoft’s MSN, which was responsible for 11.3 percent of search activity.

The "Type In" PPC Play

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CamcorderA colleague reminded me that Marchex, the public company roll up of online advertising plays, recently purchased Name Development, a company that owns a couple hundred thousand URLs. (SEW thread here). The price was $165 million.

The business model for Name Development is drop dead simple: they own a bunch of URLs, and when internet users type a word into the address bar (expecting it to resolve to something useful) or misspell a legit URL, often times one of Name Development’s URLs comes up as the resolved address. Name Development then sticks a sh*tload of AdSense or Overture links on the resulting page, and voila, free money!

This is called the “type in” traffic market, and it apparently is much, much bigger than most folks might think. According to folks I’ve spoken to, Name Development gets 17-20 mm uniques on its 200,000 domains, and is a profit machine.

Here’s an example of what one of their sites looks like.

These sites are often confused as clickfraud pages, and in fact, the do look exactly like robot or Indian click farm fodder. I would not be suprised, in fact, if some percentage of same folks who are playing the “type in traffic” game might also be dabbling, perhaps on the side, in some click fraud as well. I’ve seen these kind of honeypots (yes, that’s what they are) used for what clearly is click fraud, and when I asked Google and Yahoo about them, they said they were legit because they were “type in” traffic sites, and the ads actually served a useful, directory like purpose.

Feels slightly shabby to me. Can this model last? Will folks keep navigating by the address bar? Am I being too, well, patrician in my view of this model? What do you guys think?

Update: B2 has a good article on “domainers.”


By - December 13, 2005

Today I left the wonderful new offices of Federated Media and ventured south for three meetings – first a talk at eBay, then a catch up with Jeff Weiner, who heads up search and marketplace at Yahoo, then to Google for their annual holiday press bash.

Whew. It was a platform trifecta…and very interesting. More soon.

Alexa (Make that Amazon) Looks to Change the Game

By - December 12, 2005

Alexa(Update: Alexa platform is now live)

Every so often an idea comes along that has the potential to change the game. When it does, you find yourself saying – “Sheesh, of course that was going to happen. Why didn’t I predict it?” Well, I didn’t predict this happening, but here it is, happening anyway.

In short, Alexa, an Amazon-owned search company started by Bruce Gilliat and Brewster Kahle (and the spider that fuels the Internet Archive), is going to offer its index up to anyone who wants it. Alexa has about 5 billion documents in its index – about 100 terabytes of data. It’s best known for its toolbar-based traffic and site stats, which are much debated and, regardless, much used across the web.

OK, step back, and think about that. Anyone can use Alexa’s index, to build anything. But wait, there’s more. Much more.

Anyone can also use Alexa’s servers and processing power to mine its index to discover things – perhaps, to outsource the crawl needed to create a vertical search engine, for example. Or maybe to build new kinds of search engines entirely, or …well, whatever creative folks can dream up. And then, anyone can run that new service on Alexa’s (er…Amazon’s) platform, should they wish.

It’s all done via web services. It’s all integrated with Amazon’s fabled web services platform. And there’s no licensing fees. Just “consumption fees” which, at my first glance, seem pretty reasonable. (“Consumption” meaning consuming processor cycles, or storage, or bandwidth).

The fees? One dollar per CPU hour consumed. $1 per gig of storage used. $1 per 50 gigs of data processed. $1 per gig of data uploaded (if you are putting your new service up on their platform).

In other words, Alexa and Amazon are turning the index inside out, and offering it as a web service that anyone can mashup to their hearts content. Entrepreneurs can use Alexa’s crawl, Alexa’s processors, Alexa’s server farm….the whole nine yards.

Does this change the game? Because I was embargoed and could not really talk to anyone about this, I have not had a chance to talk to folks who are smarter than me about this. So my analysis is limited to my imagination. And that itself is limited by the pricing structure – I do not know if using this service will be cheaper for developers and entrepreneurs than rolling their own. But I can only imagine that indeed it is, or Amazon would not be doing this.

So what has been a jealously guarded secret – the contents of the entire index – is now available to anyone who wants it (of course, this assumes Alexa’s index is comparable to the big guys – honestly, I have no idea). The costs are modest – a few thousand bucks to process the entire web, Gilliat told me. How might that change the game? You guys are smarter than me – what do you think?

I am quite sure this means that Yahoo and Google will have to stare hard at their own (somewhat limited) search services and APIs, and think what they might do to compete, that much is certain. And if this starts to gain traction, all of a sudden, Amazon is a major search player, right next to Yahoo, Google, MSN, and IAC. A9+Alexa+web services= hmmmm….

Again, what do you think? Will this be like A9, a groundbreaking development that fails to get traction with a wider audience? Or might this just start something?

Wired News (not up yet) and the WSJ (free link) were also briefed on this news.

Crawl Me, But Don't Own My Stuff

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Book Open-2So says Murdoch’s Harper Collins….

From a WSJ (paid reg) article today:

In the latest salvo in the fight over the future of books on the Internet, one of the country’s biggest publishers said it intends to produce digital copies of its books and then make them available to search services offered by such companies as Google Inc., Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and, while maintaining physical possession of the digital files.

News Corp.’s HarperCollins Publishers Inc. hopes to head off the prospect of these big Internet companies taking charge of books that it has purchased, edited and published.


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I’d like some way to confirm this, but if it’s true, as has been claimed by the company, that MySpace has 10% of all available advertising inventory on the Web, then Murdoch got a deal at $600 million or so. The web is surely worth more than ten times that number…and MySpace is a very, very desired demographic by marketers.