free html hit counter March 2006 - Page 3 of 8 - John Battelle's Search Blog

About Sun's Grid…

By - March 21, 2006

Sun UtilSo soon Sun is going to launch its utility computing grid, open to all for rent. In Jonathan’s post covering the launch here, I wonder, really, truly – isn’t Google the clear competitor here? Oh, wait, no, it’s already Amazon. I’m pinging Jonathan to ask about this. Google is Sun’s partner, but will they also be fundamental competitors? (Thanks, James)

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Abortion, Adoption, Amazon

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This NYT story is getting some pickup across the mainstream mediasphere, it demonstrates how search and clickstream habits can create sticky political wickets. From the piece: last week modified its search engine after an abortion rights organization complained that search results appeared skewed toward anti-abortion books.

Until a few days ago, a search of Amazon’s catalog of books using the word “abortion” turned up pages with the question, “Did you mean adoption?” at the top, followed by a list of books related to abortion.

Amazon removed that question from the search results page after it received a complaint from a member of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, a national organization based in Washington.

In short, it seemed to the pro-choice group that Amazon had an editorial opinion. I am quite sure this is not true (Amazon denies it), but it’s yet another example of how we see ourselves reflected – at least how we wish to see ourselves reflected – in the cultural mirror that is search. Amazon decided to disable the search suggestion, which, to be honest, *is* an editorial decision.

News: Google.Portal.Finance Launches

By - March 20, 2006


(image credit) It may not be live for a bit, but I just got off the phone with the product manager for Google Finance. Today the site is finally launching. The UK sites already have the story. A few thoughts.

First, this marks a rolling shift at Google – the company is getting into publishing, whether or not it wants to admit it. The product manager, Katie Jacobs Stanton, admitted as much when we spoke – Google Finance will have a Groups section where stocks are discussed with paid moderators – that’s editors to you and me. And that’s a shift, a shift that is worth noting.

Second, Google is integrating its Finance section as the first link in its one box implementation, ahead of Yahoo and the others who previously got the free Google juice (see it in action HERE). Now the first results are going to…well…Google. That’s obviously the right thing to do for the business, but it brings up the question – is Google in the pure unadulterated we don’t mess with your results at all we’re totally objective search business, or….is it in the Yahoo business of being a content company? Think about that on for a second. (For more, read my book on this tension.)

I’m looking forward to checking the site out. Katie – who is clearly proud of her work in an infectious way – said she’s adding blogging voices, and interactive, news driven charting, and other neat features. “We’re up to par,” with the other services, she added. (Interestingly, Katie worked at Yahoo Finance, then took time to be with her kids, then went to Google.)

Apparently this started as a 20% project in Google’s Bangalore office, after Google consumer testing showed that the product was wanted by Google users.

Well, OK then. I recall a fellow by the name of Jerry Yang and another by the name of Tim Koogle telling me that when they wanted to start a new publishing venture at Yahoo, they would watch what the users did after searching. Where the tracks were deepest – finance, sports, travel – they built a new section of the ….uh oh, here it comes…the PORTAL.

As Danny pointed out last week, this page (see #2) is getting really outta date. Not that I won’t be looking forward to using Google Finance to track my non existent shares of GOOG, which, as you might recall, have been in the dog house of late. I had dinner with a Google analyst tonight in fact. Her price target is mid 400s. Can’t a brother spare a good analyst a hundred points or so? One way or another, you’ll see the stock move right here, at Google Finance.

On the Road Again…

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NYC bound. Post a comment if the world changes in the next six hours…

An Interesting Note in Google's 10K: No Favored Nation Status for AOL

By - March 18, 2006

Shark-TmThanks to Bear Stearn’s Robert Peck, for doing the work, in the summary of the 10K he finds:

Google also stated that they have substantially completed negotiations with Time Warner and AOL and expect the investment to close in 2Q06. One of the prior elements in the agreement, “making AOL content more accessible to Google web crawlers”, was removed, likely due to concerns that Google would give AOL’s content preferential treatment in its search results. AOL represented 9% of revenues in 05, down from 12% of revenues in 04.

So, it seems, Google and AOL have quietly dropped one of the most controversial elements of the deal. Remember the hubbub (I made a shark jumping comment, you may recall)?

Google Wins (For The Most Part) Against DOJ

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Google was due some good news, and yesterday (sorry, was traveling to Spring Training with my son…) it got some. From the Google Blog:

Google will not have to hand over any user’s search queries to the government. That’s what a federal judge ruled today when he decided to drastically limit a subpoena issued to Google by the Department of Justice. (You can read the entire ruling here and the government’s original subpoena here.)

The government’s original request demanded billions of URLs and two month’s worth of users’ search queries. Google resisted the subpoena, prompting the judge’s order today. In addition to excluding search queries from the subpoena, Judge James Ware also required the government to limit its demand for URLs to 50,000. We will fully comply with the judge’s order.

Google PR also sent me over this response, from Nicole Wong, associate general counsel:

“This is a clear victory for our users. The subpoena has been drastically limited, most importantly the order excludes search queries.”

I laud Google for going to the mat on this. It could have just rolled over, as did several others. My earlier converage on this, and speculation on why Google was so motivated to fight, here and here (What’s the Big Deal?!).


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A neat project at the Indiana School of Infomatics compares Google US and China for the same search. Fascinating to see the results build on the fly. The site uses a variation of a tag map from the results, as opposed to just the results themselves. From the about page:

When you click the “Web Search” button, each side of the display will first show you an estimate of how many English-language results the search engine has for that national version. Our system will then begin downloading the top few pages that are unique to that country’s results. As the pages are downloaded, you’ll see a set of words of varying size in each half of the display.

We get those words by breaking the pages up into individual terms, throwing out some common noise words (“and”, “the”, etc.), and tallying up the results. We then find the 50 words that have the highest relative frequency of use on each side and draw them in a font size proportional to their frequency. For example, if you see that the word violin is very large on the Chinese side of the display, that means that the pages unique to the Chinese search results use the word violin much more often than the pages unique to the United States search results.

You can also see image searches. Unfortunately it does not support inline URL searches so I can’t link to specific searches, but try Dali Lama, or Falun Gong, or Tiananmen (image results shown below).


(Thanks, Brent)

Please, Give me LiveSoft (Or…Please Split Up Microsoft!)

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MicrodinoI’ve been thinking about Microsoft lately, maybe because I’ve been in an email dialog with Gary Flake, or because I just interviewed Ray Ozzie for my column, or because, perhaps, of silly speeches given by Gates like this one, which was summarized thusly by a news service I subscribe to:

“The cell phone will become a “digital wallet,” able to receive e-mail and even scan business cards, while computers and TVs will merge, predicts Microsoft chief Bill Gates.”

Now, I know it’s Gates’ job to make the world of tech seem approachable and understandable to the typical MS Office user – the same person who apparently has a dinosaur for a head and stopped paying attention to technology somewhere back in 1997. But g’damn, we’ve been hearing this speech for more than ten years now, and if Microsoft ever wants to get back out in front of the pack in technology, if it really wants to lead again, as it did in the mid 1990s, it needs to do one simple thing: Split the company up.

Everyone knows that Microsoft has one center of gravity that matters: The Office and Windows revenue line. Everything else pales in comparison. But where does Microsoft get judged, day in and day out? Not on Office, or even Windows. It’s search, and innovation across the web generally. And there, it’s clear, Microsoft’s gravitational mass is getting in the way.

Gates needs to do to Microsoft what Jobs did to Apple when he launched the Mac team – give the new guys carte blanche, and get out of their way. There so so many smart, amazing minds at MSFT, but also so many stories of brilliant mediocrity. How can a company innovate against the likes of Google and a thousand Web 2.0 startups when it has to worry about Windows and Office integration? Short answer: It can’t.

Microsoft is a middle aged company struggling to figure out how to dance with the teenagers, and its body simply can’t keep up with its intentions, no matter how correct they may be. I’m not claiming “Microsoft doesn’t get it” – in fact, I very much think it does. I’m saying that structurally, the company is not capable of executing on what it knows it must do. Major projects like Live, Search, and MSN need to compete in the same market ecosystem as Google, Yahoo, and the startups. As it stands now, they can’t.

But that could be addressed. MSFT has already taken the first step, which is to reorganize into three distinct businesses – Platform and Products (Windows and MSN), Business (Software), and Entertainment/Devices (Xbox etc.). But really, what it needs to do is spin out a Google/Yahoo killer. Take Search, Live, and a good chunk of MSR (research) and make it a separately traded division of MSFT. Take the damn thing public. Imagine that IPO!

Let’s call this new company LiveSoft. It spins out with exclusive licenses from MSFT for integration with Windows and Office. For infrastructure support and access to patents/IP/research/human capital. All the stuff it needs from Mommy Microsoft, it can have. But, it’s kicked out of the nest, and run by a real madman/woman, someone who lives to run this shit. It finds its Terry Semel, Meg Whitman, Barry Diller, or Sergey Brin. (Paging Dan or Jeff from Yahoo…) And it runs from day one out of the gate.

If I were at Google, this development would scare the sh*t out of me. And if I were on Wall St, I’d have a reason to really love a MSFT related stock again.

Anyway. There you have it. I read one headline, and this rant comes out. So, what do you think?