free html hit counter March 2006 - John Battelle's Search Blog

Walt Likes Ask

By - March 30, 2006

New Ask-1

Well looky here, the WSJ has put Walt Mossberg outside the paywall, and it’s a Valentine to Now that makes Steve, Jim and the folks at Ask happy, I’d warrant!

I’ve been testing the new against the search champ, Google. I’ve found that in terms of relevant results and ease of use, Ask holds its own with Google, and even beats the champ on some searches. It has some very nice features Google lacks, including previews of the sites it finds, an easy way to narrow or broaden your search results, and frequent top-of-the-screen answers that lead you directly to core information.

The retired butler Jeeves is probably pissed he got canned right before the Journal gives his company props. But no, the stock (well parent IAC stock) did not pop…

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Google Launches Biz Local AdWords: It's Just the Start….

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Wine-TmJust got this news:

Google Introduces Local Business Ads Through AdWords

In line with its commitment to add value to advertisers and users through local advertising, Google today announced local business ads, a new feature in AdWords that allows advertisers to promote location-based products and services. Local business ads appear with an enhanced map component on Google Local and in a text-only format on and other sites in the Google network. Currently, this service is available to any advertiser who targets locations in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.

According to the Kelsey Group, 70% of U.S. households now use the Internet as an information source when shopping locally for products and services (March 2005). With local business ads, businesses can promote location-based products and services to users at the precise moment when they seek local information.

Mix this with Base, add a few bells, whistles, and databases, and hey now, my wine fantasy ain’t so far fetched.

From that:

As you slip your Naiman Ranch tri-tip into your basket and thank the butcher, you head to the wine aisle. What might go with that grilled tri tip? A nice cabernet, no doubt. Whole Foods’ wine aisle, a testament to hierarchy and peer pressure, places the most expensive bottles on the top, and the cheap juice on the bottom. No self-respecting Whole Foods shopper wants to be seen bending down to check out a bottle of wine. Then again, those bottles staring out at you from eye level are exactly the kind that you suspect Whole Foods marks up with the glee of a five star sommelier.

What to do? Not to worry, you’ve got Google Mobile Shop installed on your phone. You whip out your Treo 950, the one with the infrared UPC reader installed, and you wand it over that bottle of 2001 Clos Du Val now lovingly cradled in your arms. In less than a second a set of options is presented on the phone’s screen. It reads:

Clos Du Val Merlot, Lot 21

Stags Leap District, Napa Valley

Average Retail Price: $38 (click here for more)

Price at your store: $52 (more on this)

Click here for a list of prices at nearby stores

Click here for stores selling similar items

Click here for reviews of 2001 Clos Du Val Merlot

Click here for more on this vendor (Ecological Impact, Vendor Labor Policies…etc.)

You’re pretty sure that Clos Du Val isn’t employing child laborers, and anyway you’re really only interested in price comparisons, and the first screen has confirmed your initial suspicion: Whole Foods is ripping you off.

CorpDevDude writes….

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Reader CorpDevDude writes: There's another factor at play besides maximizing shareholder return.
Ego. Does Zuckerberg want to be Chris DeWolfe (founder who sold) or does he want to be Jeff Bezos (founder who controls)? If you haven't noticed, Rupert (who probably doesn't even have a myspace profile) is getting ALL THE CREDIT for myspace's current success. Read More Read More

Thanks for The FOIA, InfoWeek

By - March 29, 2006

Good work, Tom. Turns out, the DOJ demanded records from 34 businesses. Check out the list. Wow.

In its effort to uphold the 1998 Child Online Protection Act (COPA), the U.S. Department of Justice is leaving no stone unturned. Its widely reported issuance of subpoenas to Internet search companies AOL, MSN, Google, and Yahoo is just the tip of the iceberg: The government has demanded information from at least 34 Internet service providers, search companies, and security software firms.

Responding to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by InformationWeek, the Department of Justice disclosed that it has issued to subpoenas to a broad range of companies that includes AT&T, Comcast Cable, Cox Communications, EarthLink, LookSmart, SBC Communications (then separate from AT&T), Symantec, and Verizon.

Asked which companies objected to, or sought to limit, these subpoenas, Department of Justice spokesperson Charles Miller declined to comment because the litigation is ongoing. He also declined to comment on utility of the information gathered by the government.

The list:

711Net (Mayberry USA), American Family Online, AOL, ATT, Authentium, Bell South, Cable Vision, Charter Communications, Comcast Cable Company, Computer Associates, ContentWatch, Cox Communications, EarthLink, Google, Internet4Families, LookSmart, McAfee, MSN, Qwest, RuleSpace, S4F (Advance Internet Management), SafeBrowse, SBC Communications, Secure Computing Corp., Security Software Systems, SoftForYou, Solid Oak Software, Surf Control, Symantec, Time Warner, Tucows (Mayberry USA), United Online, Verizon, and Yahoo.

Hey S&P, Thanks for the Secondary!

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From Bloomberg:

Google to Sell 5.3 Million Shares for S&P Index Funds

March 29 (Bloomberg) — Google Inc., the most-used Internet search engine, plans to sell 5.3 million more shares to satisfy demand for the stock as the company joins the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

The sale would raise more than $2 billion at today’s price and would bring to more than $6 billion the total Google has brought in from stock sales in the past year. These new shares primarily will be offered to funds that are based on the S&P 500, Google said today in a regulatory filing.

Oh, To Be A Fly On The Wall In A Facebook Board Meeting

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Om says: when offered $750 million for your company, well… Erhmmm. TAKE IT. Bizweek is reporting that the company turned that figure down and is looking for something more like $2 billion.

Is this going to be another Friendster tale of woe?

Well, perhaps. As I learned when similar sized offers came to the Standard’s board table, selling the company is not always the entrepreneurs’ decision. The investors usually have final word, though I have no idea if that is true or not in the case of Facebook. And the company does have a remarkable business, in terms of its nearly complete reach into one of the most sought after markets in America – college kids. I can certainly see why Facebook board members might pound the table and say “We’re worth more, dammit!”

But, twenty years from now, I’m not sure anyone in the deal would argue that taking $750 million was such a bad move. Especially when the money in was about $13 million, and the damn worm of cool turns so fast in this business.

On the other hand, there is the Google problem. What’s that, you might ask? Google going after Facebook with an Orkut-powered killer app? No. Not at all. The problem is that Sergey and Larry held out and refused a lowball offer from Excite (and others) early in Google’s life, and they never looked back. Every set of young founders wants to do what they did – catch lightening in a bottle, change the world, make billions of dollars. Good luck, guys. I really do wish you well.

Me? I’d take the $750 million. But then, you all probably figured that one out by now!

This Time, It's Serious

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The net neutrality debate is heating up, and this time billions are at stake. Back in the 1990s John Doerr and other tech luminaries created TechNet in an attempt to rally the tech world into realizing that the industry needed to play, and hard, on Capitol Hill. This time no rallying cry is needed. Case in point: Google’s lobbying efforts (as outlined in this NYT piece), and this Cnet piece, outlining the NN debate. Also, see this Post article about the legislative angles.

I’m planning on focusing on this issue (among many others, of course) at the Web 2.0 conference this year (it’ll be Nov. 7-9 in SF, at the Palace hotel.) If there are folks who you think can speak to this issue, or resources where I might go to get smart on the issues, please point me in the right direction. Thanks!

Search Share

By - March 28, 2006


From a Bear Stearns report on comScore data, Google continues to gain ground in search share in the US. Given all that’s going on in search and related media, that’s impressive. From the report, which was emailed to me:

Google now has a 42.3% share of the domestic search market (the highest since comScore starting tracking market share data), up from 41.4% in Jan 06 and 39.8% in 4Q 05.

…Yahoo’s share dropped 110 bps to 27.6%, MSN share dropped 20 bps to 13.5% while AOL’s share increased slightly to 8.0% from 7.9% in Jan 06. Ask market share rose to 6.0% from 5.6% in Jan 06. The marketing push behind the Ask brand likely contributed to its share gains.

Year-over-year, Google and Ask showed strong search query gain of 29.4% and 27.9%, respectively, while the other search providers in the top five declined. On a sequential basis, Google and Ask also showed the highest growth at 8.3% and 14.6% respectively.

While Google’s unique searcher market share remains flat at 59.1% level from Jan. 06 (Yahoo and MSN both declined in this metric), searches per search increased to 29 from 27 in Jan. 06 and from 26 in 4Q 05.