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Turn's Been Outed

By - February 06, 2006

I met with the CEO of a couple of weeks ago, but on the downlow – it wasn’t ready for public consumption quite yet. Why? Well, it’s a rather audacious startup – Jim Barnett, former head of AltaVista, is running it, and it’s got some heavy backing. The plan? To compete directly with AdSense. How? We’ll seen soon enough, Jim tells me. BizWeek’s blog has outed the new company, however, so now you know as well….

Skrenta on the Craigslist Hullabaloo

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Craigslist got a dressing down in a local paper recently. Rich Skrenta disagrees with the premise. Well said!

But the the real problem with these sour-grapes articles is that they don’t shed any real light on why Craigslist has succeeded, where so many other similar efforts have not. Over-analyzing Craig’s personal habits makes for catty reading but isn’t going to help us understand his takeoff curve in new markets.

To understand how and why something works, study the thing itself, not the maker.

AT&T/SBC Plays Hardball

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SbcAll the recent talk about net neutrality and how the telcos are planning to leverage their pipes against the threats of Google et al reminded me of a story I heard recently about AT&T/SBC and our local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle.

According to sources that are very well informed inside the paper, SBC (now AT&T after the merger) is quite upset with the way a Chronicle columnist has been covering the company. Now SBC is pretty much the top Old School corporation around here (the SF Giants ballpark is named after it, for example), and it spreads its advertising budget around like oxygen in an intensive care ward. I’m told that annually, SBC spends around $5 million with the Chronicle.

But recently, SBC has turned off the spigot. Seems Chronicle columnist David Lazarus pissed them off one time too many, and for whatever reason the paper would not muzzle the recalcitrant journalist. In what appears to be retribution, SBC has pulled its ads.

Sure, a company has the right to spend its ad dollars wherever it wants to. But SBC not supporting the home town paper, because it doesn’t like the fact that that paper’s columnist writes negative (but from what I can tell, pretty accurate) pieces? That just seems, well, misguided. After all, negative press is still press, and it’s an opportunity to respond, to learn, to grow, to do better. Even if you disagree with the press, at least take the time to engage in a conversation.

So I called AT&T/SBC to get a response and ask if what my sources charge is true. But I only got this: “Our marketing strategy and media buying plans are proprietary.”

Alright then.

Why am I writing this? Because this is your new competitor, Google. Get to know them. As you offer free WiFi to all of San Francisco (and, one might argue, the rest of the country/world), and undermine AT&T/SBC’s broadband business (and wheel Vint Cerf out to argue the net neutrality meme), hard ball players like SBC are going to go after you, and rest assured, their motto ain’t “don’t be evil.”

Caveat: I have friends inside the SF Chronicle, and because SBC isn’t çommenting, this post represents just one side of the story. I hope SBC will change its mind and engage …. if it does, I’ll update this post.

University of Michigan President Defends Google Book Search

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Book Open-3

Here is Mary Sue Coleman’s speech (pdf download from Searchblog), given right in the lion’s den of the annual AAP meeting (they are suing Google, you will recall.) Kevin Kelly, who sent the speech to me, calls it eloquent. I have to agree.

From it:

It is this criticism of the project that prompted me to accept your invitation to speak — and explain why we believe this is a legal, ethical, and noble endeavor that will transform our society.

Legal because we believe copyright law allows us the fair use of millions of books that are being digitized. Ethical because the preservation and protection of knowledge is critically important to the betterment of humankind. And noble because this enterprise is right for the time, right for the future, right for the world of publishing, right for all of us. ….

…We were digitizing books long before Google knocked on our door, and we will continue our preservation efforts long after our contract with Google ends. As one of our librarians says, “We believed in this forever.”

Google Book Search complements our work. It amplifies our efforts, and reduces our costs. It does not replace books, but instead expands their presence in the marketplace.

We are allowing Google to scan all of our books – those in the public domain and those still in copyright – and they provide our library with a digital copy. We insisted on this for one very important reason: Our library must be able to do what great research libraries do – make it possible to discover knowledge. …

…Let me assure you, we have a deep respect for intellectual property – it is our number one product. That respect extends to the dark archive and protecting your copyrights.

We know there are limits on access to works covered by copyright. If, and when, we pursue those uses, we will be conservative and we will follow the law. And we will protect all copyrighted materials your work – in that archive.


“We have to remember,” President Angell said, “that the library is the great central power in the instruction given in the University, and that the books are here not to be locked up and kept away from readers, but to be placed at their disposal with the utmost freedom…”

Be placed at their disposal with the utmost freedom. That’s what the technology of Google Book Search does with our books. …

…I was particularly struck by one Ford official’s assessment of the absolute need for transformation: “Change or die,” he said. Change or die. …

..At its essence, the digitization project is about the public good.

It transcends debates about snippets, and copyright, and who owns what when, and rises to the very ideal of a university – particularly a great public university like Michigan.

This project is about the social good of promoting and sharing knowledge. As a university, we have no other choice but to do this project.

Hey BMW: You Ain't Street Legal, Google Says

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From Yahoo news:

In a move that analysts say indicates a problem that still needs a solution, Google has removed BMW’s German Web site from its index for violating Google’s guidelines against trying to manipulate search results.

The move was first reported by Google employee Matt Cutts in a posting to his blog on Saturday. He said had been removed last week because certain pages on the site would show up one way when the search engine visited the page but when a Web user opened the page, a redirect mechanism would display a completely different page.

Matt’s post is here.

Ricoh is also a violator. You Have Been Warned.


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From Chris Beasley’s post:

Amazon is apparently looking into the feasibility of starting their own ad network like Adsense. They’ve been contacting select members of their associates programs, including myself, asking if we’d like to be beta testers. The way they want the beta test to work is to give you a special code for Amazon’s Keywords Recommends banners (the banners that you feed a keyword to and they show related products) and have this special code then show these new ads 50% of the time.

When I first heard about this I thought it’d be Amazon product listings displayed in an Adsense-like way and I figured it’d analyze your content for for products to serve, but they’d be Amazon products. Turns out I was wrong, they want their own contextual advertising network.

Krugle Launches

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A search engine for code and code related information, another domain specific search play. Launching today at the DEMO show.

As commentor Gary noted, there is already (covered here), but Krugle CEO Steve Larsen told me that he feels his new engine is more robust…

PayPal v Google(Buy), WSJ Reports

By - February 05, 2006

The WSJ tossed this tidbit outside its paywall, so I’ll link to it…From the article:

While Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt confirmed in press accounts (see here) that the company was building a payment service, Mr. Schmidt also denied it would directly compete with PayPal. Mr. Schmidt said Google didn’t intend to offer a “person-to-person, stored-value payments system,” which many people consider a description of PayPal’s service.

Mr. Jordan (PayPal chief) says he and his team immediately “dissected the wording” of Google’s statements. He says he doesn’t believe Mr. Schmidt….

…The Mountain View, Calif., Web-search giant, which has terrified Silicon Valley with its ability to quickly create new consumer products and services, is developing a rival service called GBuy. For the last nine months, Google has recruited online retailers to test GBuy, according to one person briefed on the service. GBuy will feature an icon posted alongside the paid-search ads of merchants, which Google hopes will tempt consumers to click on the ads, says this person. GBuy will also let consumers store their credit-card information on Google.