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

round up

By - July 31, 2006

Google settlement

The judge in the Google click-fraud case approved the $90m settlement—in credits, Google is pleased but 500 drop-out from the class-action. (Battelle talked earlier about this. ) AP: By settling claims made in the plaintiffs’ class-action lawsuit, Google will give advertising credits that are the equivalent of a $4.50 refund on every $1,000 spent in its ad network during the past 4 1/4 years.

Picture 4-3AOL Video

Time Warner introduces AOL Video search (with upload and sharing capabilities) that will offer on-demand video and TV shows like South Park, in addition to free content. TechWeb writes that the technology backbone is from Truevo and Singingfish, which AOL purchased last Dec. and in 2003 respectively. Planned to launch Aug. 4.

Picture 6-4Hot eye-tracker study

A web navigation study finds the upper left of the search results screen attracts the majority of attention, with about 45% of user clicks within the slightly larger F-shaped area. Research at the University of Hamburg finds: the Web moving from static hypertext information to dynamic interactive services. Clickstream heatmaps and web page statistics show rapid interaction over smaller areas of the screen.

About 33% of searches contain 2 keywords, over 88% contain only 2-3. (from SEW)

False names

A loophole in ICANN’s registration policy is abused in “a growing practice dubbed Domain Name Kiting,” reports Kuro5hin: Of more than 35 million domain names registered in May 2006, less than 3 million were legitimate! The remaining 92% were dropped within five days without incurring registration fees…ICANN regulations permit domain registrars to delete a registration within five days a receive a full refund.

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Cutts' instruction video

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Picture 3-7SEO guru Googler, Matt Cutts posts a few short vlogs on best and worst SEO practices, on Google Video of course. (Hmm, any YouTube users thinking the same thing?) In a few short segments Cutts answers some questions sent in by hats of all colors, discussing what really matters to a crawler and how to optimize, dispels some SEO myths, and champions user experience.

Is this the new Cutts vlog? Perhaps not, his ever SE-orientated audience quips it’s not crawlable, “It’s also bad for your SEO, Matt!”

Thoughtful Discussion

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My coverage of Paul’s post has prompted some very thoughtful discussion in the comments, and I wanted to point it out. An employee from Google and one from Yahoo are discussing the value and approach of R&D, with some great comments thrown in by other readers. Excerpts:

(JG@Yahoo)”Google treats research as an engineering task. And thus really only comes up with engineering solutions. They see some problem that’s slightly broken, so they engineer a slightly better solution. With MS on the other hand, they’ve allowed funding for more pie-in-the-sky, long term projects, such as those that used to happen at PARC and Bell Labs.”

(Random Googler) “I work at Google, and I see an amazing amount of research going on. The entire company is staffed with people with academic backgrounds in disciplines like computer science, computer engineering, mathematics, and so on. To imagine that we’re not doing research constantly seems bizarre to me. The question of “yes, but how much basic research” you’re doing also seems weird to me. When running your company involves solving fundamental problems in computer science and mathematics, that’s what you do as your bread and butter.”

(JG) “You mention the hordes of academics who have joined Google. I know, they’re there. But if they’re all busy launching products, who is creating the seeds for the next generation?”

Update: My bad. JG has a Yahoo mail address, but is not at Yahoo, he’s a researcher at another Valley firm.

Random Googler Writes

By - July 30, 2006

Reader Random Googler writes: So, I work at Google, and …to imagine that we’re not doing research constantly seems bizarre to me. The question of “yes, but how much basic research” you’re doing also seems weird to me. When running your company involves solving fundamental problems in computer science and mathematics, that’s what you do as your bread and butter….If Microsoft is really going to throw up charts and graphs, it’d be interesting to see their cumulative spending on R&D in their sixth year of existence as compared to Google’s…it appears … that Microsoft has spent nearly 40 billion dollars on R&D (cumulative) to produce a business that has about 40 billion a year in revenue.

The Net of R&D

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Paul Kedrosky points to an interesting slide in Microsoft CTO Craig Mundie’s recent analyst day presentation. The subject is R&D, the point Craig is making is that Microsoft is way outspending Google and others.

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Paul points out:

Compelling, right? Microsoft’s spending heavily on the Next Big Thing, while its layabout competitors, you know, aren’t.

Well, I’m not so sure. Google has added over a $100-billion in market capitalization during the period, while Microsoft has shed around $30-billion in market cap. Similarly, Apple has added around 30-billion in market cap, while IBM has shed around $20-billion.

If you were of a grouchy frame of mind as a long-suffering shareholder, you could use this slide to argue that Microsoft overspends on R&D and investors would be better off off if it spent way, way less.

To which I’d add: I wonder how MSFT got these figures. Given that Google pretty much runs its engineering department as an R&D lab (ie, you can work on whatever you want at least 20% of the time), I’m guessing these figures are a bit off.

Less Than Two Weeks Old, and This Kid's A Black Hat

By - July 28, 2006


My pal Steven Johnson, he of wonderful books, had a third child recently. To celebrate, Steven asked his pals to link to his birth announcement post. For a brief moment, Steven’s new son Dean was one of the top results in Google for “Dean“. Then, abruptly, Dean was gone from Google’s index.

Steven wonders, why?

Has Dean been labeled a black hat spammer by Google? Matt, can you help us?!

UPDATE: Matt says it was just the usual, er, burps.

Dig into

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A curious guy, named Tony Ruscoe, was digging though one of Google’s many latent registered domains and found some interesting stuff. On the Sandbox subdomain (recently serving Checkout), Google is running experimental services. Although existing user names don’t permit log-in, Ruscoe says he was able to create a new account on Sandbox and add new services, currently unavailable to regular users.

In the experimental bin, added 14 services to his “sandbox” account. Some of these are already disclosed, so only the surprises are listed here: Google Events, Google Guess, Google Online Assessment, Google Real Estate Search, Mobile Marketplace, New Service (AKA Workplace), and New Services.

Highlights: * Google Guess, as Ruscoe writes, “How many guesses do we get? This really could be anything!” * Google Online Assessment, he speculates is an internal tool–again, pretty vague. * Google Real Estate Search. * New Services has “code names like cf, gmt and voice.”

* Mobile Marketplace: Maybe number 13 in John Battelle’s Predictions 2006 post will come true. Maybe Google will finally plug mobile “into the web in a way that makes sense for the average user” and maybe they’ll also be the ones to create “a major mobile innovation – the kind that makes us all say – Jeez that was obvious.” But we’ll see…

* New Service (AKA Workplace): Maybe this is the big one people have been waiting for; the one that will really kill Microsoft Office. At least, if it’s at all related to IBM Workplace it could be. I don’t know an awful lot about this, so if anyone else feels more qualified to talk about it, please go ahead. All I know is that it’s got something to do with – so that’s why it could be the killer…

privacy protection in search

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If you have a healthy paranoia about one (or any) search engine caching every detail (date/time/IP/terms) of your search history, ixquick may have the answer. Icquick acts as an unretentive buffer to search with eleven top engines. Particularly interesting given the government’s repeated irreverence for constitutional privacy protections, much less respect for well-maintained corporate safeguards.

Ixquick’s Meta Search feature enables the user to simultaneously search 11 of the best search engines. However, Ixquick does not share the user’s personal data with these individual search engines in any circumstances. In addition, as of this week, Ixquick will delete the users’ IP addresses and ‘unique user IDs’ from its own ‘Log Files’.

If You're A Parent…

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…then check this out. (A bit off topic, but I have three kids – four if you count FM, which I’m pretty proud of as well…)

Interview: BIll Gross

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B GrossA while back I posted a note asking you all who you’d like to see interviewed here on Searchblog. The top vote getter was Bill Gross, of Goto/Overture, Picasa, Knowledge Adventure, and Snap fame. (He also starred in Chapter 5 of my book). Bill was gracious enough to agree to an email interview, and even more gracious to agree to answer some of your questions in the comments section, when time permits.

As those of who who’ve read The Search know, I’m a fan of Bill and his work. From Chapter 5:

By his own account, Gross has been starting companies since he was

thirteen. His problem was never ideas. No, he, in fact, has way too

many of those. His problem was scale—how could he possibly start

companies as quickly as he could dream them up?

Gross started in a linear fashion, building companies one at a

time. He’d grow them till he got bored or distracted (or both); then

he’d sell them. He funded his first year of college by selling solar en-

ergy conversion kits through ads in the back of Popular Mechanics.

While still an undergraduate (at the California Institute of Technol-

ogy in Pasadena), Gross hacked up a new high-fidelity speaker de-

sign and launched GNP, Inc., to sell his creations (GNP stood for

Gross National Products—an indication of Gross’s sense of humor

as well as an underdeveloped sense of modesty).

But Gross had reason to boast: GNP, Inc., grew to claim number

seventy-five on Inc. magazine’s 1985 list of the 500 Fastest-Growing

Companies. When he graduated, he sold the speaker business to his

college partners and started a software company that presaged much

of the rest of his life’s work. The company, GNP Development, al-

lowed computer users to type natural language commands that the

computer would translate into the arcane code needed to execute spe-

cific tasks. In other words, Gross’s company created a program that

in essence let you “talk” to the computer in plain English, as opposed

to computer code. Gross’s program was a small step toward Silver-

stein’s Star Trekinterface (as discussed in Chapter 1)—the holy grail

of nearly everyone in search today.

Searchblog: You’ve had tremendous success over your career, and in particular with search (Magellan, Goto/Overture, Picasa, etc.). But the world has woken up to search – and Google seems to gain market share monthly. Yet you are trying to once again take on the world with Snap. What makes you feel like there’s still an opportunity there?

Grosss: I’ve always thought that search is extremely important, but my interest in it has always been very personal in that I’ve always been trying to make things that “I” would really want. With Magellan, I wanted to be able to view my files faster than DOS allowed back then. With Goto, I wanted a way to remove the spam at that time from the Top 10 listings at the search results I was seeing. The pay model seemed like the best way to do it, and although ridiculed at first, really took off. And then again with Picasa, we really wanted a way to browse and organize our photos better than the PC-based tools allowed at that time.

Snap is very similar, in that a team of us at Idealab just brainstormed about what things we would like to have that would make search more productive for us. It might not be for everybody, but we feel there is a lot of room for innovation in particular areas, and we’re extremely excited to pursue that. I absolutely agree with you that the world has woken up to search, but that is far from saying that every idea in search has been done, and thus it is very exciting to us.

What do you make of Google? When folks ask you for your unvarnished opinion of the company, what do you say? What is its biggest weakness? Strength?

I think Google is an amazing company. They have a money machine, and they continue to introduce a broad array of new advertising offerings. I think they are turning out to be one of the best competitors in the history of business — and they have shown that with their ability to go up against MSFT and stay ahead. That’s a very impressive feat.

I think their biggest strengths in order, are their profit margins, their brand, their core relevance algorithm, their number of advertiser relationships, and their many smart mathematicians and developers. I think their only weakness, and it’s small, is the increasing challenge they will have to keep up their rate of innovation now that they are becoming such a large company.

I have to ask, given that you starred in a chapter in my book, what you thought of that chapter, and if perhaps you disagree with my characterization of you as a bit wistful that perhaps GoTo could have become Google, so to speak?

I don’t recall how it came across in your book, but I am certainly not wistful. I think Goto “did” become Google <smile> as I think 99% of Google’s revenues come from pay per click. Seriously, Google did an amazing job of building upon Goto’s early success.

Seriously also, we’re honored to have played a part in causing such a fundamental and profitable shift in the internet advertising space over the last 10 years.

Do you have any ideas about what search might look like in five or ten years? Do you think pure search sites will continue to prosper? How might they be different from today?

I do think pure search sites will continue to prosper, but I also think that there will be many new kinds of specialized search that continue to surprise us. I just made up a little table of the searches I do per day over the last 20 years, looking at some key milestones, like when I started using email heavily, and then when Netscape took off, and then when the first search engine companies went public, and then again when new tools came out, like X1 for searching email, iTunes for searching music, my TomTom for searching for locations.

Overall, I find myself increasing my searching from a few searches per day at the beginning of the 90’s to probably 40-50 searches per day now, but that includes my daily email and file searches with X1, searches with Snap and Google, patent searches, music searches, and so on.

So I think that search in the future is going to continue this march, impacting our lives with, say 25% compound annual growth in our usage. And I think search will continue to find a greater and greater place in our daily lives, where it’s just embedded in nearly everything we do, to find information, entertainment, friends, places, and 10 more things that are as hard to imagine now as it would have been 10 years ago that I would type 3 characters, then see some album art, and then click play.

Would you be open to answering a couple of questions from the Searchblog readers when we post this?

Yes, I’d be happy to answer some questions as long as it’s not overwhelming in time.