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"Google is the dominating chip stack"

By - October 11, 2006


That’s a quote in this rather bleak piece on Yahoo in today’s Times. The context? Google owns the table in the poker game that is online media. How about this excerpt from Saul’s piece:

“Yahoo has lost the favor it enjoyed a year or two ago,” said David Cohen, a senior vice president of Universal McCann, a media buying agency of the Interpublic Group. He said his clients were reducing the share of their budgets they allocate to Yahoo in favor of newer sites, like MySpace, and sites developed by big media companies like Viacom.

“There are more players in town, and the others are closing the gap relative to the things Yahoo is good at,” Mr. Cohen said.

But the problems at Yahoo go beyond advertising. From video programming to social networking — areas of interest to users and advertisers alike — the company is losing its initiative. And each time a product fails in the market or is late, Yahoo loses some ability to do more deals and hire more talented employees. The shares are down 38 percent this year, sending some employees out the door in search of better shots at stock market wealth.

Google, in the meantime, is taking advantage of Yahoo’s problems to cement crucial deals that could make its rival’s recovery even more difficult.

Ouch. More when I can say more. But I have to say this: Fortunes rise, and fortunes fall. Yahoo’s been here before. Google? Not so much. I’ve seen go go go – Apple in the mid 80s, Microsoft in the early 90s, Netscape in the mid 90s….and Google is on an extraordinary run – go go go for going on four years now. But that’s hardly a dynasty…yet.

It's Not Friday But…

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Does anyone find this ad (it’s everywhere, for a mortgage broker) mesmerizing? It’s a popunder, and I hate popunders. But there something in the way this couple moves….

That reminds me. I think all ads on the web should have permalinks so we can refer to them historically. Why not?!

Update: Jonathan at FM has found a site that has some of these ads!

Google Docs & Spreadsheets

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Docs Spreadsheets

Man. Google is such a cool name. This is such a lame one:

Google Docs & Spreadsheets is a web-based word-processing and spreadsheet product that makes it easier for people to create, manage, and share documents and spreadsheets online. Google Docs & Spreadsheets integrates Writely and Google Spreadsheets into a single, easy-to-use product that takes an innovative approach to a very specific problem in the productivity-software space: enabling people to manage and collaborate on the documents and spreadsheets they rely on in their personal and professional lives, no matter where they are or when they need to access them.

With Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Google is taking a set of important tasks and offering an online solution to completing them individually or with a broader group. With a Google Account, a compatible web browser, and an Internet connection, users will now easily be able to:

— Create documents and spreadsheets, and then manage and access them in a single, secure location

— Easily collaborate with others, online and in real time

— Export to and import from a wide variety of file formats

— Share them with others as view-only

— Publish them to a blog or as an HTML page

Simply put, Google Docs & Spreadsheets is focused on providing users with an innovative and efficient way to create and share information on the Web.

But not a lame idea, certainly. I can’t wait for my visit to Microsoft later this month!

The Google – YouTube Deal- coverage roundup

By - October 10, 2006

While CNet heralds a triumph for social computing (and asks marketers to face the music and get comfortable with UGC videos), CNN Money augurs “the beginning of the end?”

Dalka points to a few good, unanswered questions on the deal: Will the unprecedented operational independence Google’s giving YouTube provide enough distance to partially protect the buyer from copyright infringement lawsuits? And, will the users (now at over 20 million) stay if Google has to clean house?

Forever Geek discovers the zen in the new alliance: an alignment of cultures willing to fight against the copyright overlords, a similar knack for accumulating prized industry data, and the brand name.

A VC highlights, from an earlier post, how this startup landed the biggest acquisition offer Google has ever made–and in transit “kicked Google’s ass (and everyone else’s too).”

TechCrunch posted the original scoop on the rumor– ahead of most major media outlets, including the NYT, as the blogosphere was quick to note.

Mark Cuban plays a singular devil’s advocate in the dissent, on a count of the landslide of copyright violation suits to come. And in that prediction, of course, he’s no lone cassandra. Copyright suit magnet? asks the Journal.

Business Week discusses YouTube’s maneuvers to fend against suits, including a new ‘copyright fingerprint’ tag it will implement to allow owners of copyrighted materials to take part in the viral-sharing decision and subsequent ad revenue.

On the other side of the fence… Robert Scoble asks, what if was Microsoft that bought YouTube? In all fairness, Yahoo News runs an AP article entitled “Google eclipses rivals with YouTube.” (now that is editorial restraint.)

The YouTube co-founders, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, have their celebratory clip joking, “The king of search and the king of video have gotten together— we’re going to have it our way.”

But it’s fair to say a YouTube user has created a more professional clip: a droll vid on what users can expect from the Google-YouTube honeymoon.

A Brief Interview with EFF's Fred von Lohmann on YouTube, Copyright, Google, and More

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Fred Med

My first go to guy on all things DMCA, copyright, and digital law and policy is the EFF’s Fred von Lohmann. I started an email interview with him prior to the GooTube deal, and it only seems more salient now. Read on for Fred’s insights:

Is YouTube on safe legal ground, given all the recent press and buzz around copyright?

Well, virtually no one in the Internet industry is on “safe” legal ground. As any copyright lawyer will tell you, the legal standards governing all Internet businesses are still more uncertain than we’d like. Just witness all the litigation that companies like Google and eBay are involved with.

Of course, when most people think about potential legal liability for YouTube, they are thinking about potential copyright risks. And although nothing in the Internet legal realm is entirely certain, YouTube looks to be on relatively firm legal ground. Unlike some more aggressive companies (like the old Napster), YouTube has the benefit of a set of special “safe harbors” created for online service providers as part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). If your activities fall within the safe harbors, as defined in Section 512 of the Copyright Act, you can’t be liable for money damages for copyright infringement based on those activities. There is a different safe harbor for each of the following activities: providing network access (e.g., your ISP), caching, storing material on behalf of uses (e.g., web hosting), and providing information location tools (e.g., search engines and linking).

One of those DMCA safe harbors was designed to protect providers of hosting services. When it was passed, Congress had big web hosting services in mind, but the rules work just as well for video hosting services (like YouTube), blog hosting (like Blogger), and music lockering (like MP3Tunes). There are a number of requirements that a hosting provider must meet, but the most important one is the implementation of a “notice-and-takedown” policy. YouTube has such a policy in place, allowing copyright owners to notify it of infringing videos and taking them down promptly upon receiving such a notice. Other requirements include implementing a policy of terminating “repeat infringers,” which YouTube also has, and registering a “copyright agent” with the Copyright Office, which YouTube has done.

The outer boundaries of the DMCA safe harbors are still being hammered out in court (porn vendor Perfect 10 has been leading the charge on behalf of copyright owners on this legal front). And it’s not just YouTube that is interested in these legal fights — because any legal precedents undermining the safe harbor would put Google, Yahoo, AOL, MySpace, eBay and others at risk–the biggest Internet players have a stake in the outcome.

But so far, so good for YouTube. It looks like YouTube is working hard to keep its boat in sheltered copyright waters.

Given what you just told me, why, do you think, the major media companies – potential acquirers of YouTube – are still wary of the company, as reported in many quarters (I
reported as much on my blog)? Is it simply: “I don’t want to be the test case for the DMCA?”

YouTube, like so many Internet pioneers before it, is in the disruptive innovation business, and thus sure to upset many incumbent players. So, despite the fact that YouTube is on reasonably firm legal footing, many media company suitors are probably going to be cautious here. They’ll be wringing their hands, worried that maybe YouTube has gone “too far,” will end up the legal “javelin catcher” out front, and the market will belong to a second-comer (see, e.g., ReplayTV and TiVo). And many incumbent media players are not eager to alienate their comrades (sometimes known as “competitors,” but more frequently known as “deal partners” ) over some new upstart with an uncertain future. Remember what happened to Bertelsman when it invested in Napster?

In this regard, YouTube is nothing new — disruptive innovators are never popular with the popular kids. Just think back on Sony in the days of the Betamax, or Diamond with its category-creating Rio MP3 player. Or, for that matter, Google today, attacked from all sides for disrupting comfy old markets (books, advertising, etc).

Let’s talk about some of that disruption. Where do you come down on the Google books issue?

I’m a big supporter of Google’s Library Project — I predict its legacy will outlive that of Google’s search products. I haven’t bothered writing out my views because they have already been more eloquently put by others.

On the general topic, I couldn’t have put it better than Columbia Law School Professor Tim Wu:

On the copyright law details, Jonathan Band has done a better job than I could:

And finally, on the importance of this effort to culture, I have nothing to add to the eloquent remarks of the President of the University of Michigan:

Now that we know who bought YouTube… do you think Google is going to get sued in any case?

YouTube has already been sued (by LA New Service), so Google is essentially buying that lawsuit. But I don’t think that’s a problem — frankly, precedent set against YouTube will likely exert strong influence over the entire video hosting industry. So, in essence, Google is just getting more direct control over a lawsuit that is important for its existing and future business. And when it comes to lawsuits, Google has top-drawer talent (both in-house and in outside law firms), strategic vision, and a stellar track record. Google’s executives (like AOL’s and Yahoo’s before them) understand that shaping the legal precedents is a critical part of their business.

And it’s important to consider who are the people suing YouTube. I’ve thought for some time that the first lawsuits against YouTube (and other video hosting services) will be from small copyright owners (like LA News Service), not from major media companies. That’s good news for YouTube (and Google). Small timers tend to lack the resources to bring top-drawer legal talent to bear in these fights. As a result, they often lose, creating useful precedents for the Google’s of the world. In fact, Google has already been successful in securing good precedents against unsophisticated opponents who thought that they could squeeze a quick settlement out of Google (Field v. Google, Parker v. Google). What the small-timers don’t appreciate is that Google would much rather spend money on setting a good precedent than on settling.

So I think the YouTube acquisition may well represent a legal opportunity for Google (and the Internet industry generally), rather than a vulnerability. After all, litigation to define the copyright rules for new online services is inevitable — better to choose your battles and plan for them, rather than fleeing the fight and letting some other company create bad precedents that will haunt you later.

Thanks Fred!!!

Nexidia: Cool Video Search Stuff

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Gary gives us a pause from YT madness….from his coverage:

Nexidia is a multimedia search company out of Georgia that creates a searchable corpus (words and phrases) but does it unlike other products that provide transcript (every word spoken) search.

Nexidia takes words and phrases and breaks them down into phonetic sounds (phonemes) and then indexes them. ….

About 40 phonemes exist in every language with about 400 in all spoken languages. …To this point, it’s been difficult to demo Nexidia technology since there haven’t been any public demo sites. Most of their business is with private companies (recording call center chats, for example) and the government.

However, as of today, we have a publicly accessible demo to take a look at with Nexidia. It comes from Channel 11 (WXIA) in Atlanta and allows you to keyword search all of their news programming (no sports) plus some exclusive web footage. Look for the search box in the middle of the page. Of course, don’t forget that this is a beta release.

Two Kings: YouTube's Chad and Steve Talk On YouTube

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Giddy? Yes. But the YouTube community seem to like it (its been viewed nearly a million times and has high ratings…). I mean, here is a historical document of what it looks like to realize you are worth hundreds of millions of dollars and …. it’s real. Yes, guys, you are now officially fuck you rich….is that a TGIF you’re standing outside of?!

(Thanks Adam!)

Hyping The Hype Machine (And No, It's Not YouTube)

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Blog Photo

My pal John Heilemann has penned a B2 piece this week on the Hype Machine, which I have to admit I had heard of but not checked out. It’s a very cool music site, a sort of structured search hack which takes as its inputs discussions and songs on popular music blogs, and gives as its outputs songs that are buzzworthy. There’s a there there, and I’ll give ten to one the fellow behind it (Anthony Volodkin, at left) is fielding job offers a la delicious right about now….

First Blush on GooTube – Conference Call

By - October 09, 2006

Gootube-2The markets like it – GOOG is up $8.50.

I’m listening to the conference call. Chad Hurley is talking about the integration of Google search into YouTube and also is talking about how YT is focused on helping media companies to monetize their content.

Why YouTube when you had Google VIdeo? Eric said Google Video was doing well, but YouTube was a clear winner in the social networking side of video…

Why stock, not cash? David Drummond of Google: So as to make it tax free for the shareholders.

How large are YouTube’s costs? No comment save Eric: “they have been thrifty.”

Monetizing YouTube: In the near term and mid term what is it coming from, search or video? Eric: We don’t give guidance. We’ve come up with 20-30 places where Google tech can help. Most people believe this is just the beginning of the Internet video revolution.

What did you use to value this acquisition? We typically don’t go into that. David: We modeled it this on a “synergistic model”.

What role did copyright play in this acquisition and what steps are you taking there? YT: From the beginning we’ve always respected rights holders’ rights. We now have the resources (at YT) to continue that. David: The YT vision and commitment to enforcing copyrights – relying on the safe harbor of the DMCA – is similar to ours.

What integration might be expected in the short term? Sergey: we care very much about search – we want to include YT’s videos in that – and also we will work on the advertising solutions. There is a great deal more experimentation and trials to be done. Google Video doesn’t go away ever (Eric).

Datamining: Sergey: We have no intention to do that.

Will you keep the brand separate: Eric: Yes. It has great value.

This is the next step in the evolution of the Internet. …it’s a natural next step. (End of call)

I am mixed on this. I think it’s wise to frame this as “the companies will stay separate” kind of acquisition, even if in the end that’s not the intent. But this marks Google’s first significant “out of brand” acquisition, the company’s first true brand-management challenge. I’m not counting Blogger in here because, well, it wasn’t this big. More to come…