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GBuy: Killer App, or Wake Up Call?

By - June 11, 2006

Missed that Forbes is predicting a June 28 release for GBuy, the PayPal competitor.

Consumers using GBuy, which is set for release on June 28, will be taken off the merchant’s site to complete the payment. This will enable Google (nasdaq: GOOG – news – people ) to capture e-commerce transaction data, driving more precise targeting in future searches.

Given how important this particular launch is to Google, I am sure it will be a good product, not the spaghetti against the wall we sometimes see. However – and as odd as this might sound – I am not sure the world is ready to trust Google with its payments. I sense the overall cultural vibe on Google is that it’s gaining too much power. Folks are starting to wake up to the whole ephemeral to eternal riff. The Times is banging the table about it nearly every week (see this front pager from Sunday, or today’s story, for example, which kindly quotes me.) Soon, the networks will pick it up. And then….

Maybe it’s not such a bad idea to hang fire…

The Search in Hungarian

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I knew The Search had been translated into Hungarian because a family friend who speaks it told me so, but still, it’s cool to see it – “Keress!”

I like the sound of that.

(thanks Adam and Eni)

Melanie's Friday Roundup (On Sat!)

By - June 10, 2006

Synch Firefox Toolbar between browsers

Google adds a Firefox toolbar synch tool between browsers, announced on the Google blog.

The Fragmentation of Search

Fred argues that the the drop-down search engine menu (in Firefox and now IE) belies a future where specialized search tools dominate.

Top Searches at

The CIA publishes a monthly zeitgeist list of top 25 search phrases on their website, in compliance with the Freedom of Information act. (via Matt Haughey on MetaFilter.)

Is the Google empire spread thin?

Sparked by mixed reactions on Google’s SpreadSheets, GigaOm opens a poll on whether Google users think Google is wasting its genius capital or distributing it well. Also, he asks “Should Hollywood fear Google?”

Competing interests

Hoover, a business intelligence company, publishes the list of the top 100 companies searched for on their website. (thanks to Gary Price )

Google Lobbying

Woefully underdressed” or not, Google’s serious about its lobbying efforts in the beltway.

Google And EBay: The MBA Analysis

By - June 08, 2006


I had the pleasure of being interviewed a few times by the authors of “eBay and Google: A Coopetition Perspective,” a term paper of sorts written by two Haas School of Business 2006 MBAs (they both graduated this year). Despite my participation, Julien Decot and Steve Lee have written an insightful and data-packed paper – 44 pages in all – that exhaustively details how Google and Ebay depend on each other, and what stresses the two companies’ relationship will suffer as they increasingly find themselves in competition.

In fact, as they researched the paper over the course of the year, the authors came to the conclusion that eBay had no choice but to ally with either Yahoo or Microsoft. Then the Journal reported as much, and the Yahoo/eBay deal went down.

If you love data (they estimate 12% of all eBay traffic comes from Google, for example), financial analysis, and competitive scenarios, this paper is for you. There is an entire section on “next moves” which I also recommend. The authors have allowed me to post it here (PDF). They would very much like to hear your take on it. Remember, this is the work of students, not industry experts, but it’s quite valuable nonetheless.

Some typical analysis from the paper:

Haas 2

“(the) main takeaway from our analysis: assuming the profit margins from their current businesses remain similar to their current level, or worse, if they face increased margin pressure, it is pretty likely that eBay will consider seriously entering the online advertising market at this point….

…Based on our high level projections, we can foresee a mismatch between demand and supply

that could possibly induce some price pressure on Google’s core ad market. Moreover, in order to

reach revenue levels built into Google’s valuation, Google will have to enter markets outside of online ads.”

Sure, you could argue that’s obvious, but it’s sure nice to see the data laid out, and the arguments made, and there’s a lot more to the paper than just that. The authors did a lot of original research (like the graphs above showing customer segmentation), and peer into markets where both companies might logically strike next.

The best part about this? After graduation, the authors are going to work in the Valley – one for eBay, the other for … Google.

Talk of the Blogosphere: Google's AJAX Search Widget

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(via Melanie, admittedly belated)

Last week Google unveiled Ajax Search API (Beta)–its experimental dynamic search module that blogs and websites can place can use to place complimentary content to their sites while their readers can access/clip content (samples). Optional search categories are parsed into local, video, web and blogs; while users can manipulate the look and layout of the beta widget (demo). Google is actively pressing for constructive feedback from developers with the accompanying Ajax Search blog. Since it was released last week, a few responses from around the blogosphere:

O’Reilly: For Google this is about distribution and getting on more websites. By making a rich UX accessible for little work they will get even more people willing to put their results on their pages. Assuming they add advertising (which is mentioned as an “if” in the FAQ) then the uptake will definitely increase – especially if site-owners are able to share in the AdSense revenue (it’s not surprising to note that the AdSense question was the first one asked in Developer’s Group).

SEL: This is a good move for Google – they’ve apparently learned their lesson from the Google Maps API. Let the development community figure out what you’re good for 🙂


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MerchantcircleThe week’s buzz is rising on MerchantCircle, a local search play with a twist. I spoke to CEO Ben Smith this week, and he got me smart on the idea behind it. In short, MerchantCircle is trying to get local merchants to play the search game on their own terms, and I like that idea.

SiliconBeat has some good thoughts on it:

…MerchantCircle has pre-populated its database with generic business listings. Business owners can then sign in to claim their profile pages.

…Smith doesn’t view MerchantCircle as a destination site for users. Most people won’t go here looking for a local bike shop, although you could. Instead, they’ll find MerchantCircle profiles when they’re Googling for Palo Alto bike shops, for example.

The “circle” in the company’s name comes from the idea that merchants will create networks of affiliated businesses by adding their names to their profile pages and swapping ads with each other. The idea is to give merchants an incentive to invite other merchants into MerchantCircle. Indeed, Smith is relying on this type of viral marketing to build his business because he doesn’t have a cadre of salespeople to recruit business owners.

Garrett French has more on MerchantCircle here, as does Greg Sterling.

Dave Morgan: Good Points

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Dave Morgan of Tacoda pens a piece in MediaPost today which I think nails why Google has (apparently) struggled with its bid to sell ads in magazines. From it:

….the failure had much more to do with Google’s inappropriate approach to print advertising than it did to print advertising’s inability to deliver results for its clients.

Why? Google has not created the world’s greatest all-purpose advertising machine. Rather, it has created the world’s greatest yellow pages directory. There is a big difference.

Search is intent-based, just like yellow pages. It is used to generate leads. It focuses on creating immediate and measurable effects. Clicks are like phone calls.

National print display advertising is media-based or audience-based. It is about creating or influencing brand and product perceptions. It focuses on creating longer-term–and harder to measure–effects. Clicks are not like creating warm, fuzzy feelings about driving a Jeep up a mountain.

Dave also discusses differences in sales approach, creative, and the like.

But I’m more bullish on the idea, generally, because at the end of the day, what Google I think is trying to do is take over the back of the book, or marketplace section, of most vertical magazines. These are the fractional ads that clutter up the last few pages of most titles like PC World, Stereo Review, and the like. Here, I think, Google could really have a field day, but the market is so scattered, it might take quite a long time for it to find traction.

This Just Sounds…Odd

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Tv Folder-1

But….I’m very pleased to see this kind of silly, out there stuff coming from Google. From InfoWeek:

Two Google research scientists want your computer to watch television with you so it can deliver personalized Internet content at the same time.

In a research paper presented last week at interactive television conference Euro ITV in Athens, Greece, Google researchers Michele Covell and Shumeet Baluja propose using ambient-audio identification technology to capture TV sound with a laptop PC to identify the show that is the source of the sound and to use that information to immediately return personalized Internet content to the PC.

What I find strange is that, well, this solves a problem I’m guessing we won’t have in about ten years, or sooner. The TV is just going to be another web application soon, and the device will be on the IP network anyway.

LaLa: Used CDs For A Buck, And the Artist Gets Paid

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LalaI like this idea.

From the Reuters coverage:, which allows fans to trade music discs for just $1, plus shipping, pledges to give a fifth of its sales to all the musicians, including lesser known session studio players, involved in the making of CDs exchanged on its site.

In a move that is certain to stoke controversy with music promoters, the founder of the Silicon Valley start-up said Lala will circumvent traditional copyright and royalty payment systems to compensate identifiable working musicians.

The site works something like an eBay auction exchange as it encourages consumers who sign up for the service to list all the CDs they may want to exchange as well as ones they would be interested in receiving.