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"Frienemy" – Bleccchh

By - December 05, 2006

Please. Please. PLEASE stop using this word (WPP boss Martin Sorrell on Google yesterday). Why? I hate it. Isn’t that enough? No? Ok, well, perhaps stop using because it’s a cop out – a way of not dealing with a company that represents in a nutshell the need for major media companies to confront shifts in their audiences, content producers, and business models. Leaning on words like “frienemy” and patting oneself on the back for coming up with them (and please, the word is as old as the hills) is simply a delaying tactic. (NBC has taken to the word as well, ahead of WPP, if anyone is counting). I hate this word nearly as much as I hate the word “Coopetition”. There’s no such thing. You are competing, period. Perhaps one way you compete is to partner with them, so as to keep them close. But don’t tell me a competitor is your friend.

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Yahoo's Top Searches

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Vapid Tv Host

Are here.

Two things.

1. I find the “hostess” deeply irritating, even if it’s just an introduction. I’m coming to rifle through information and draw my own conclusions (ie, I’m in Internet mode), not be yammered at in vapid TV grammar.

2. Interesting timing, Yahoo doing this on Dec. 4th. The year has nearly a month left. An attempt to get a leg up on all the others?

Google $600, No Bubble

By - December 04, 2006

That’s the gist of Bear Stearns’ latest pronouncement, covered on Eric’s blog here.

Researchers Wonder: Where's Google's Contribution

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Acm Call

Early in my research for the book, I noticed that the practice of academic publishing in the field of search seemed to have tapered off after the late 1990s. I speculated that this was due to the privatization of the field – companies were starting to jealously guard what they discovered because there was money to be made. I worried about this on my site, and even started a project to prove the trend that I had only noticed anecdotally. But I am not an academic, and like so many streets my research went down, this one turned into a dead end.

But a faithful reader remembered my earlier posts, and provided me an interesting datapoint from a recent search related conference – the ACM Fifteenth Conference on Information and Knowledge Management. Turns out, of all the papers submitted at this conference (conferences tend to be where most academic papers are presented), ten came from Microsoft Research, ten from Yahoo (one in concert with Micrsoft), and none came from Google.

The site only lists the papers and authors, so my trusty reader source (who wishes to remain anonymous) did the legwork matching authors to companies. ACM has the final say on what papers get accepted, but I doubt they’d bong papers from Google (though Larry and Sergey’s paper on PageRank was denied at first by a conference in the mid 1990s!).

Submitted as a datapoint and not an indictment, but it is interesting nonetheless. I’ve shot Google an email to ask if they submit papers elsewhere, though the ACM tends to be the place you see most of the interesting search research….I’ve also asked Gary to chime in, as he really watches this space closely…

Update: From Google PR (and a few readers in comments too!):

Here are some Google-specific papers for reference:

http://labs.google.com/papers/

And here is a more comprehensive list:

http://labs.google.com/papers.html

Giving back to the research community is extremely important to us and we make a lot of research public by publishing papers. On the more comprehensive list I count 63 papers from Googlers in 2006, alone;-)

Ask CEO on AskCity

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Lanzone-Tm-1

OK, let’s start from scratch. What is AskCity?


OK. Here we go: AskCity is a new local search application from Ask.com. You can find it in one of two ways: through the AskCity link on our homepage, our automatically, at the top of our standard results page, in response to your local queries.

AskCity is the fifth major search vertical we’ve launched this year, following Image, Maps, Blog/Feed, and Mobile search, and we’re really proud of it. It stands out from the crowd because it seamlessly integrates four types of local search – business/service, events, movies, and maps – with the best local content on the Web, along with ergonomic design and features, to form an “all-in-one” resource. AskCity users won’t have to bounce around to multiple sites in order to find, and take action with local information. In short, we get you from Point A to Point B faster.

Local has been around for ages. Why now?

Very simple. Local accounts for 10% of all Ask.com searches, and yet it is the vertical on our site, and in the overall search category, with the lowest user satisfaction. Our research showed that people felt that recent local products launched by our competitors focused too heavily on maps, or on “cool” fly-through graphics, and not enough on helping them dig deep into local content, or into helping them accomplish tasks. AskCity fixes that and then some.

Upgrading our local capabilities will hopefully serve our users needs better, increasing their likelihood to adopt Ask as their primary search engine in a very competitive environment.

I really like user reviews/testimonials. Will AskCity have this feature?

We found in our research that one of the biggest causes of dissatisfaction with local search is an over-promotion of and over-reliance on the map, and limiting information to mere links. It reminds me of the over-reliance on comparison shopping in product search, as opposed to product research, which is 80% of online shopping. 
 
In response to this, with AskCity, we went deep on information, incorporating over 25 companies from across the Web directly into the product. We not only feature full editorial profiles of each business, but we include 10 years worth of reviews, both from IAC companies like Citysearch and ServiceMagic, as well as non-IAC companies like Yelp, Tribune, OpenTable, RottenTomatoes, TripAdvisor, InsiderPages, JudysBook, Fandango and others. 
 
An important differentiator with AskCity is the fact that we return these reviews right within the results, just beneath the full profile of the business, service, locale, movie, etc. We even have reviews of the movie theaters themselves.
 
Speaking of which, its important to note that AskCity is much more than just an online version of the yellow pages. Yes, you can use it to find businesses. But there are four types of search in the product – business/service, events, movies, and maps/directions. And we plan to add more next year.

But can **I** post a review?

Are you some kind of review monger?

No, but I do like to hear what folks have to say…



You don’t write reviews directly on OUR site, but that’s not our job. Instead, when you post it on Citysearch, Yelp, InsiderPages, etc., we will crawl them and post the top ones in AskCity. We also tell you how many reviews exist on each one of those sites for that particular business, and link to them. We also have 10 years worth of editorial reviews from Citysearch, which adds a different flavor.


We’re not currently a place where you can write them yourselves. But we are crawling those other sites constantly, so as soon as you write it there, they’ll be searchable on Ask. And the bottom line for this version of AskCity is that we’ve gone further than any other site to incorporate review content directly into our results.

How long did it take to pull this together, and is this the start of Ask.com becoming the “connective tissue” of IAC?



We worked on AskCity for the better part of the year, really turning up the heat over the summer, after our initial relaunch. With Local being such an important part of search, and something we weren’t doing very well, it was an obvious place to make an effort to do something really good and really original.

I look at the connective tissue thing a bit differently, in that to date I think people have assumed that meant we’d stick a bunch of links for IAC companies all over our homepage. But that’s not what people want from search, and going back to Pathfinder I don’t think that’s a model that’s worked well. Even today, we’re being used more and more for what you might deem “portal” content, because people find it easier to use a search box than navigate a page with dozens of services on it and going through a separate experience. If they can get it, people want one, cohesive experience. So instead of looking at Ask as the glue, I look at us as a chef that is remixing IAC into our own recipe, to create new, valuable products that didn’t exist before. AskCity is a great example, but IAC has leading brands in many other categories, so you’ll see us create new recipes for things like shopping, real estate, travel, etc. We develop things with a “quality over quantity” mentality, however, so it may take a little while to get there.

I know you’ve answered similar questions (see Om), but how does this change the positioning of Citysearch, which was a local search destination?



It doesn’t change anything. We’re the doorway, they’re the destination, and we both have well over 20 million users per month, respectively. With AskCity, we’re incorporating more of their content directly into our results than other search engines do, and that helps people make more informed decisions more quickly. This will raise the water level for both Ask and CS at the end of the day, and that’s why the Ask and Citysearch teams worked so well together on this one.

How important a launch is this for Ask.com – what are your expectations?



Very important from the perspective of doing a lights-out job on 10% of our searches, where we formerly had a pretty high failure rate. Any time you can do that, you build your foundation for growth. That’s been a key to our success all year against a very strong headwind, with a company that has few, if any, structural advantages over our competition. Image Search has been the fastest growing part of our site on the back of critical praise and industry-leading relevance. Even our Mobile search, launched last month, has been growing like gangbusters – well beyond my expectations – with almost no real press coverage. With Local, I expect even more. The product deserves it, because it delivers.

AskCity Goes Live

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Ask-Logo

I’ll have an interview with Ask CEO later today, but for the news: (via SEL)

Danny Sullivan and I got a demo last week, which was impressive. At the level of functionality and usability the new Ask City is a dramatic improvement over the former Ask Local. It brings more horsepower but also some greater complexity for users. Ask Local was a very basic presentation of Citysearch data beside an associated map – simple and potentially effective for a business name lookup but not as helpful for a category search.

The new Ask City combines data and content from a range of IAC sites and third-party sources, including Citysearch, Ticketmaster, Evite, Trip Advisor, Yelp, InsiderPages, Judysbook and a number of other sites. It’s broadly organized into four content areas: business listings (i.e., yellow pages), events, movies and maps & directions.

Gary (who is at Ask) has a nice roundup too…

AskCity.

Oh – That Web OS Thing? Amazon Thinks It's a Pretty Good Idea

By - December 03, 2006

Jeff Bezos

From TechCrunch:

A new and unannouced Amazon Web Service to be called “SDS” is referenced on [a now pulled] Amazon web page discussing customer YouOS ….and is being tested with a select few Amazon partners. After a little digging, we heard that it may stand for “Simple Data Service” and will be launching sometime this year, although another source said that the name is incorrect. A representative from Amazon would not comment on whether the service exists or not.

Oh To Be A Fly …

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Money2-1

…on the wall for these discussions/debates. To wit (via BizWeek, but reported here and here and here and loads of other places….)

Google (GOOG ) and YouTube are dangling nine-figure sums in front of major programming and network players—that is, the Time Warners, News Corp (NWS )s, and NBC Universals of the world. Google calls these monies licensing fees, according to executives who’ve been involved in the discussions. But some of them characterize the subtext like this: Don’t sue us over copyrights. Take this (substantial) payment, and trust us to figure out how we’ll all make serious money once we get advertising and revenue sharing worked out.



The offer, and YouTube’s rapid rise, force the titans of a time past to make a very big decision quickly. If you’re a network, you can’t ignore YouTube’s reach. (Some 23.5 million unique visitors went there in October.) But if you’re a network, you also believe you can’t give up your stuff lightly. Your copyrights, and insisting on your programming’s premium value, underpin the entire business model.



The questions that matter:

- Are they exclusive to YouTube/Google, so that no other online outlets can have the content?

- Do they include any sharing of ad or future subscription revenue?

- Can the media companies pull their content for breach? And what is breach?!

And on and on…wow, this has got to be the full legal employment act for most of the media counsels around the country right now.

Abuse of Your Privacy And Online Info: Don't Worry About the Govt…

By - December 01, 2006

…worry about the MPAA.

From Techdirt:

A few months back, of course, you’ll recall the big scandal over HP’s use of “pretexting” to spy on various people to figure out who leaked some information from the board of directors. Pretexting is a nice way of describing a basic form of social engineering identity theft. Basically, you call up a company pretending to be someone in order to get their information. It seems pretty clear it should be illegal, and while Patricia Dunn was eventually charged with crimes over the practice, there were plenty of questions as to whether or not California laws actually made pretexting illegal. This surprised many people, who then started trying to push through such laws, which haven’t really gone very far. In fact, there were similar laws that politicians had tried to put in place earlier that had failed as well.

A bunch of folks have submitted this morning that a Wired News investigation found out that the California law to make pretexting illegal had strong (nearly unanimous) support… until the MPAA killed it. Apparently, MPAA lobbyists explained to California politicians that they need to use this identity theft method to spy on file sharers.