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Loeb

By - May 15, 2006

I’m honored to hear that The Search is up for a Loeb, which is the most prestigious award in business journalism. But the field is quite competitive, and I’m just thrilled to be among the other fine books noted. (Somehow, I sense The World Is Flat will sweep…!)

UPDATE: Well, this is embarrassing, but my publisher told me I was a finalist, along with about ten other books, but now the release is out, and only three are on it, and The Search ain’t one of them. I guess I was given bad info. Sigh.

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Scan This Book

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Read Kevin Kelly’s excellent piece (NYT Sunday Mag) on how books will change forever. I’ll be back with more on it soon…

Melanie's RoundUp

By - May 12, 2006

Y! Answers Beta No More

Yahoo Answers plans to drop its beta tag on Monday. Since the launch in December 2005, Yahoo says its amassed a library of over 10 million Answers and 7.2 million unique users.

Picture 9Collexis Fingerprints

Yet another search service–but wait, Collexis claims individuality for “helping to get your job done by thinking for you.”

Instead of caching full pages, Collexis crawls for “Fingerprints” of content based on a thesaurus-rich text analysis that can access live pages, archives, and various other types of files.

“The system can create a fingerprint for each piece of text that contains relevant information, such as competence sheets, project descriptions or web pages. The fingerprinting process makes use of a structure of professional terminology of a particular field (essentially a thesaurus). Picture 10By doing so it embodies the way humans understand those terms and concepts.”



Collexis is a tailored industry search for government, university and medical research, pharmaceuticals, and banking and finance. Making data accessible and easy to manipulate will have nice implications for analysts and experts in all those fields, but Collexis also aims to make “it easy to use for even the most non-technical user.”

Google Execs Sell Lots of Stock

According to the SF Chron (via GoogleSystem), 14 Google Execs sold $4.4 billion in stocks last year and this year a dozen have sold $1.9 billion. “That includes founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, each of whom sold about $1.3 billion worth of stock.” They were actually asked about this at Google Day and Brin responded that like any investor it’s wise to diversify but that he intends to keep the vast majority of his stock “forever.” Based on the insider stock trade filing, the Chron also finds that of the $11.3 billion in personal income tax receipts California pulled in April, approximately an eighth or more derived from Googlers.

Speaking of MySpace…

Following-up John’s last post on the spike of hits from MySpace to Google, Paul Boutin has an article in Slate on why MySpace, as well as YouTube are pulling in the critical mass. Talking about the recent popularity stats on domains, which the WashPost posted, Boutin writes: I was skeptical when I heard how huge video-sharing hub YouTube and social-networking hotspot MySpace have become. YouTube claims 40 million plays a day, up from 35 million just a week ago. The answer he comes to is that the two social mega-hubs make it too easy to resist for non-geeks, making the web: “The secret to success is to make everything one-button easy, then get out of the way.”



Boutin also complains that Google Video (along with others) fall short by specializing the tools—in his words, presuming they know what users want–whereas MySpace gives you everything in one personalized space.
“MySpace isn’t that much easier to use than Friendster, or than other shared-user-content sites like Flickr (photo sharing), del.icio.us (bookmarks), or Digg (tech news). But it mixes multiple publishing models—blogs, photos, music, videos, friend networks—into one personal space. Most important, it doesn’t presume to know what your goals are.” In retrospect from Press Day, it’s a safe bet that the new Co-op exchange of social tags will include video soon enough.

Picture 8-1Withdrawing the Branch from Olive

Despite rumors the past few weeks that Google was going to buy Olive for $75 million, after looking the software company up and down in a week of intensive interviews Google then walked away. Olive software converts various data files (like PDFs, microfilm) into xml, accessible to search.

Is it a coincidence that a large portion of Olive’s employes are based in Israel and Google is opening new offices in Israel? Silicon Beat muses: Is Google turning into a Microsoft? Checking out the goods, and then going back and building it themselves? Or hiring away the better employees? Here’s what one person said: “Google learned a LOT about Olive… everything.”

VLAB Ad Forum on Ad Models

VLAB (the MIT-Stanford Venture Lab) is hosting a forum next Tuesday on new ad models. Hosted by Mark Kvamme from Sequoia, the startups Accomplice and Root Markets will talk about the dynamic of their models, alonside panelists from Carat Fusion, AdBrite and Google AdSense.

Indeed, the First PPC Job Search

Yesterday, Indeed announced the formal launch of its the first pay-per-click job advertising network. Unlike the Google and Yahoo PPC models, advertisers in Indeed don’t pick and buy keywords or write copy. Instead, offering a little wiggle room for advertisers, Indeed relies on the job descriptions to place relevant ads beside search results.

ICANN Rejects .xxx

The decision was considered by many internet freedom advocates as a test case for ICANN’s indepdence from US control
, the Reuters report. Over 1000 Diggers have tagged the ICANN announcement; and ICANN Watch is unsurprisingly not happy: “I would say that .xxx was a lousy idea, but that the people behind it followed all the rules and still lost — but that would suggest that there are rules.”

Picture 7-2Google Notebook Screenshots

Some pre-release screen shots of Notebook are on Flickr thanks to EricaJoy.

Yahoo CEO Pines for Google

Yahoo Chief Terry Semel tells The New Yorker his biggest mistake since 2001 was not purchasing the fledgling Google…although it seems he did not because Brin and Page would not sell. CNet notes that though this “story may have been told before, but it’s still a delight to hear from Semel’s lips.”

Another Hitwise: MySpace Sends 8.2% of Traffic to Google, Implications

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Wow. I love infoporn. I have a hunch that Mr. Murdoch is thinking hard about this graph:

Myspace Google

From the Hitwise blog: The chart (above) illustrates the percentage upstream from myspace.com to Google.

Going back to the beginning of last year myspace provided less than 1% of all Google traffic.

While myspace.com still doesn’t have its own search offering, the shear volume of traffic sent to external search engines could be directed internally with the right acquisition and promotion of its own search offering.

There are a lot of other insights in the piece. I’ve had MySpace again on my mind after talking Weds with Jon Miller, CEO of AOL. My full interview with him will be up on B2.0 in about a month, but the thing that struck me was how Miller mentioned MySpace in the same breath as Google, AOL, Yahoo, eBay, and Amazon. It had made it into the majors as far as he was concerned, because it owned the social networking space. And why, again, might Google launch Co-op, and AOL AIM Pages? Indeed….

DaGoogle Spike: HitWise Data on the Google – Sony Partnership

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Remember the DaVinci code/Google hookup around Easter? (Nathan has a round up of where things stand with the puzzles, etc. here. He apparently is one of 10,000 folks who completed the 24 puzzles and is in the “finals.”)

Anyway, the folks at Hitwise sent me an analysis of what a link on Google SERPs (along with some juicy homepage promo) will do for a site like Sony Pictures. Check out this graph:

Da Vinci Chart

Bam!

Now, sure, DaVinci Code got a lot of PR at the same time, so maybe this is not just Google? They isolated engine traffic too, here’s Google:

Google Davinci 2

More at the Hitwise blog.

Comscore April Numbers

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Ben Schachter of UBS provided me with an analysis of Comscore’s April numbers. Now, we all know that there are issues with any panel based study, but the big guys are pretty apples to apples. It’s very interesting to see how three of the top ten are really newcomers in the past few years – Myspace, Facebook, and Craigslist (not new, but new to the big leagues). The analysis is not available on the web, so if you want it, I’ve loaded it up here.

From the summary:



Top Ten Sites (Page Views)

1) Yahoo!, 2) MYSPACE.COM, 3) MSN-Microsoft, 4) Time Warner Network, 5)

eBay, 6) Google, 7) FACEBOOK.COM, 8) Viacom Online, 9) Craigslist, and 10)

Comcast. Our tracking index of the top 100 sites by page views was up 7% m/m.

Top Ten Sites (Unique Visitors)

1) Yahoo!, 2) MSN-Microsoft, 3) Time Warner Network, 4) Google Sites, 5)

eBay, 6) Ask Jeeves, 7) Amazon, 8) MYSPACE.COM, 9) New York Times

Digital, 10) and Verizon Communications.

Key Points

We note that Craigslist, MySpace, and Facebook continued to grow. These three

sites average double the average page views of the next closest site.

Thoughts On Google Press Day

By - May 11, 2006

Goog Prss DayA few things that strike me as we digest all the news yesterday (webcast). (PS, Google’s shareholder meeting is going on now…)

1. A renewed focus on search (yes, we are still about search, says Marissa in a new blog post). This was a clear message: We differentiate on search, we lead in search, we live by search. Clearly, the competitive differentiation was important to get across.

2. An expansion of what search means. With Trends, Google is finally starting to mine the Database of Intentions for the obvious value it contains. With Co-Op, it’s starting to mine intentional clickstream. These two signals are critical to advances in search.

3. An attempt to remind an increasingly querlous press corps of what makes Google special. The corny video, the explanation of how Google works, the reminders about the founder’s letter, the homey anecdotes about innovation in omlette preparation – all designed to strengthen the company’s image as unique in the field.

4. A clear nod toward increased competition and a move into the messy world of people over machines. Mainstream press coverage of the announcements focused on Schmidt’s claim that the market is not a winner take all world (and I heard the same from Jonathan Miller of AOL yesterday when we met). But the fact is, Google must play where the others play, and more “web 2.0″ apps like social search (Co Op), bookmarking (Notebook) and user generated content (Co Op, Base, Finance, and Notebook) are clear moves into worlds where Yahoo, Ebay and Amazon have stronger plays. (Gary calls Co-Op “Google Base for Web Pages” – a nice observation.)

5. Overall, the stuff Google showed was interesting, but not particularly unique. Neat hacks, pointers to future directions, but not…major. But is that required for a press event? Nah.

Google Press Day: The Overview

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I’ll comment on the new products shortly, but here’s Melanie’s liveblog of Google Press Day from yesterday.

First a quick highlight of the day’s launches:

* Google Co-op: A community site-tagging system that shapes Google’s recommended search refinements based on selected users’ votes (tags, rankings and comments).

“It works just like a Grocery co-op,” says Marissa Mayer. Registered users mark trustworthy, expert sites and label them into categories–such as health, influenza, or advice for patients. Then community members can subscribe to other users’ labels. In Co-op you can view the CDC’s profile, see the labels it’s participating on, and who has subscribed (with pictures). Should be up in the labs within hours. Currently, the labs version has six featured subscribers in the directory, including Digg (one of Federated Media’s affiliated sites), Winspectator, Fandago, People, Open Table, Design Assistant at SouthernLiving.com, within four categories, Health, Information, News, and Travel.

* Google Trends: Charts the competing popularity of two search terms (based on the volume of a portion of Google traffic). The Trends chronology also associates spikes in searches with some events that might contribute, and describes the origin of the searches by relevant factors, like region, language, and city.

What is the search pattern for the terms Google versus Yahoo, in Google’s cache? “We’re giving you the keys to the Zeitgeist kingdom, is basically what we’re doing here,” says Jonathan Rosenberg. Searching for “equinox, full moon, solstice,” Trends shows the temporal pattern. “Surfing” has geographic variables. Great monetary implications of trends in geographies, where ad campaigns. “The age old question,” Rosenberg asks, “Boxers or Briefs? Boxers are more popular, apparently.”

*Ajax-Rich Desktop: Boxers

In Google personalized homepage, Gadget applications area added like a media player, weather update and an animated toy plant that blooms with mouse attention. A recommendation engine built into Google desktop provides suggetions based on your “internal” (?) cached search history. So, for example, if you frequently query for flights, it might recommend you add an airfare tracker widget. (For Mac users, it’s like a live, Google-integrated dashboard widgets.)

* Google Notebook

Available in the Labs next week, with a google account and plug-in installed, Notebook allows users to take notes while you’re searching, saving snippets of text, images and links (similar to Scrapbook).

* (Not) Health: Oh yeah, and no health yet! Myers acknowledged the rush of rumors she stirred, but no official release. From the day’s previews though, it looks like the crux of Google Health will be the refined search for select medical-related searches that popped up in intermittent trial screen shots earlier last week and is semi-finctional now.

Picture 6-1PRESS DAY HAPPENINGS:

Google Press Day was an excellent opportunity to consider public relations lingo and succumb to the little luxuries of the welcome committee. “We know the wireless doesn’t work. We’re fixing it,” beamed Elliot Schrage, VP, Global Communications & Public Affairs. (Om Malik blogs: I am going to try and live blog the Google press day event. It is packed room, and tons of journalists are in the room. Despite all that, we are all disconnected. There is a problem with the WiFi and there is no connection. I am posting this from my crackberry.) I must be feeling lucky, because I’m the only one with a press pass who seems to be able to get online (finally, value-add).

The main cafe, Charlie’s, is swathed in white fabric imprinted with the Google logo in black text, is packed with about 250 visitors. With club music playing overhead, the main display offers up everyone’s favorite wall covering, a running stream of live search terms. The lights dim. The screen rolls with a year of Google Highlights: Earth, Talk, Mobile, Aps, 22 new global offices, famous Googler faces, Google.cn, mag covers, SF picks for new wifi…

After intros by Schrage with a “A Note From Our Lawyers” looming on the screen overhead (“forward-looking statements,” securities exchange, blah blah), Eric Schmidt opened with commentary on the message of the day: Search is still the core focus of Google. He didn’t reveal any secrets behind PageRank like a hidden integration of borrowed Yahoo results, but he did test the journalist crowd’s ability to memorize the fundamentals of the schpiel (however true): Google is being open and testing limits, in particular now, fostering the “localization of our business around the world.”

Eric Schmidt:

(In paraphrased/broken quotes): ” Search is still the central thing in which you do anything with all this information….turning power relationships on its head……end users are driving that and I think they’re still not satisfied. And I hope to show you search is still the main way of solving all of that. Search has produced great spin-offs: ajax, LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL Perl/PHP/Python), mash-ups. Search is the inevitable outcome—”

“There’s a magical moment when you type something into google and say ‘wow, that’s something cool/new.”

“The web, at least, is growing faster that Moore’s law…with the web 2.0 model, now we can make money out of it. [Search] advertising is very successful now.”
(NB: that must be a sore point in a room full or print reporters).

How Google Runs:

1. 70-20-10 Principle: By the most recent analysis, Google is not as high as 70% in the core of search/ads, so now they’re reshifting the focus again to adjust (in other words, we’re doing more search again…). The 20% represents Google’s bargain with technical people, allowing them to roam free to encourage creativity—where all the most interesting products emerge. The 10% is for wacky ideas that might not work out but feel worth pursuing.

2. An “exhaustive drama of arguments and reviews” in “ceaseless GPS [Google Product Strategy] reviews—so much that it’s produced a recent internal traffic jam on the servers with so many such teams.”

3. A monthly formal revenue force and reordering around product investment.

“The goal is to systematize anything…The only way to deal with the growth in scale, is a systematic approach to each and everything we do…Google’s making significant storage/computing capacity investments, reusing and combing data from one application to another….”



On Competition: Yahoo, MSN

The competition is healthy and but the competition is “not emphasizing the 70%” i.e. SEARCH, “which is what users want,” says Schmidt. With the partners–AOL, eBay– collaboration is growing: “[It's] not just the IT industry anymore, it’s an information industry of hundreds of millions of people. There’s room for hundred of companies emphasizing different stuff…..”

More Schmidt Snippets:

Big Issues
: the role of government, the regulatory structure of the Internet.

Copyright: We’re “indexing, note, not reproducing, the world’s books.”

Rules of the Internet: The first rule of the internet: People have a lot to say…All user generated info all the time…Expertise will transition in our lifetime from learned information to learning information——this is a big shift (add full quote)”

Factoid: The search numbers in mobile (cell, treo, blackberry) are more than three times in use than persona computers. Mobile presents interesting challenges, as well as potential, because the user experience is “more as finding than generalized searching—-because of the very small screens”

The Future of Search:

What users want is “serendipity—tell me what I’m typing….Information businesses have predictive power and make a business out of this focus of information that we are creating…. It [search] will work as a continuous cycle, more search, more advertising, more innovators… the model is designed to scale to no boundary…I’m sure there are limits, but we don’t see them today…”

Spam

Comment spam is not an issue in determining PR, but link exchanges/farms are still an issue—and to some extent there are valid (i.e. Berkeley and Stanford trade links)–but they’re developing new technologies to deal with interlinked sites.

A hard question: “How do I know if a change in the ranking function is good or bad?” Answer: If a algorithm change can make 40% of results better, leaves 40% the same, and hurts 20% of words—What should we do? We do it. “No change we make is going to make 100% of the queries better,” but the improvements are typically small.

FACTOID: More than 1/2 of Google queries come from outside the US.

Localization

There are more than 15,000 engineers/Googlers: a “global mindset, local focus.”

Speakers: Omid Kordestani, senior vp, global sales and business development, Nikesh Arora, vp Eurpoean Ops., Adam Freed, Dir. Product management, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, vp, Asia Pacific and Latin Amaerican Operations.

Google is growin “in parrallel rather than sequentially… continuing expansion, [world-wide offices have] gone from zero to 120 in record time…[Google is] operating in different government and regulatory environments,” a complex job.

Google Maps launched in Asia after the US, and just last week in Europe. “Most [of Google Maps Asia was] built outside Mountain View—on the ground, present in these countries… [providing] deeply local, unique in culture and content, books, video, etc. orginating from there. And Google Finance originated in Bangalore.”

How Google Saved My Life: The Video

A deluge of warm images and soft words over the screen….

The parents of infant twins did a google search on mobile when the newborns had an illness. “Thanks to Google, we went from needing this major proceedure for our newborn, to being able to go home.” Awwww….. The writer with a voice of confidence: “As an author—[Google] leveled the playing field” allowing me to compete with the bestsellers. The White Coat hugging a picture of a pink baby to her chest says, “Health care providers don’t know enough about rare diseases…Essentially Google saved her life because she had been sent without any other help from her local physicians.” Another user found 30MinuteSeder.com: “Google saved me two and half hours”!

The press thought this was pretty corny…

Next Speakers: Jonathan Rosenberg, Senior VP, Product Manager & Marisa Mayer, VP Search Products and User Experience

Innovation Process

A bit on how Google does what it does: Still continually inspired by the founders’ S1 letter; offices at the googleplex are actually patterned after the space of the original garage Page and Brin worked in—with three to a cubicle. Pushing the analogy that innovation permeates every facet of the plex, Rosenberg uses the cafeteria as an example–where hungry Googlers can choose their own ingredients then hand them off to the cook who will whip it up into an omelette.

Maps has kicked off a whole new spin-off of programming, the ajax paradigm.

Mayers highlights the core components of Search Experience: 1. comprehensiveness: Google believes it has 3x as many pages versus its competitors’ indexes. 2. Relevance: provided by adding dozens of tweaks in algorithm. 3. Speed. 4. User experience.



Advertising hopes to increase relevance—with site targeting, content bidding, position preference near—increasing its hold on the “longtail.” For instance, Local delivers click-to-call in map ads—in bringing it “closer to a transaction” because the user is “engaged in phone call with vendor.”

Scaling Free Innovations

Starting with the core of Search/Ads, the larger spectrum is Communications (like Gmail and Talk), then broadens to Free products (Earth, Picasa, Blogger, Print).

Innovation, Not Instant Perfection

“And because it’s free, you shouldn’t expect it to be perfect,” says Mayer. She said Google launches early and often, pushing out to public sphere, then seeing what the public thinks of it, then improve it. Mayer charted the increasing pace of innovation thus far, noting that inside of a year, Feb-Jan, there were several iterations of Google video and improved services. Mayer suggests to keep watch for a new G-Desktop launch soon—if the engineering team can keep its current pace. With all the focus on innovation, Mayer goes out of her way (as others do) to reiterate that the focus remains extant and centered on search. Using Mobile, Rosenberg walks through finding a Bed & Breakfast in Mountain View, results delivering what credit cards they take and rates.

The Q&A

The measured reservation of the whole day reached its apex in the Q&A when Brin and Page unexpectedly dropped in along side Schmidt and Schrage.

Q: Is Google becoming a Bureaucracy? A: A no-answer answer.

Things only got lively when the BBC reporter asked Brin and Page if a) they had a Peter Pan complex and wished their company was still small, and b) they felt like taking flight and living-off their riches. It was almost another no-answer answer, until Page stepped in with a great response reflecting Google’s evolution and self-awareness today.

A snippet: We realized that search was “too meaningful to the world for a small company to really succeed in that…. so in order to really fulfill that mission we had to grow….[Google] really is changing the world, and to do that we really have to be really big.”

Google Press Day

By - May 10, 2006

Much to report, will have a longer post Thurs. Was offline much of today, back at it soon…

EBay V. Google For the Heart of the Media Industry

By - May 09, 2006

A nice piece of reporting by Susan K. that I had not heard about: eBay and Google competing to build a media industry-spec’d platform (not AdWords….).

From it:

A consortium of some of the biggest advertisers in the United States has plans to move the ad industry out the era of the cattle exchange and into the internet age. They’re looking for someone to build an ADSDAQ — an online exchange similar to the NASDAQ where advertisers and media owners can trade.

Google and eBay are the front runners right now — and eBay has the edge. At stake is a cut of the $800 billion total advertising market. Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently boasted that he expects to get his fingers in every piece of it.

Today, at a conference of the Association of National Advertisers, this group, led by Julie Roehm of Wal-Mart, asked ANA members to put up $50 million to test a trading system for traditional media.

Howard Rosenberg, director of trading platforms for eBay, was on hand to demonstrate such a system that eBay has ready to go.

As far as I can tell, Google’s approach is to extend AdWords into other media (image/cpm, video ads, etc.) but eBay would build this to the spec of the media industry, and for them. More of a “pure play” is how one source put it. Innaresting.