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Facebook in Play?

By - June 07, 2007


More rumors. If Yahoo does win Facebook, that’d be quite a coup, even at $2 billion, I’d warrant. But, Google has a way of swooping in at the last minute and winning the deal. If Google bought Facebook, would that be a shark-jumping move? Would that be Google simply owning too much of the current web?

Related: Murdoch in the Journal: “We’ve got to find new ways and new business models to get revenues. Or else the world is going to be owned by Google.”

A Brief Interview With Udi Manber, Google, On Universal Search

By - June 06, 2007


If you’ve been reading a while, you’ve seen my coverage of Udi’s career, from A9 to Google (and before, though I did not cover his work at Yahoo or prior to that…).

I pinged him a while back and he got back to me after the universal search announcement had passed (he had a lot to do with it…).

Here’s our brief interview:

How did Google make the decision to do universal search? What got you comfortable with the approach? It reminded me of the things we spoke of when you were at A9…

The project started way before I arrived at Google. What you see today is just the beginning, and it’s a culmination of many different pieces that came together recently. What got us comfortable are three things: First, the design of the infrastructure is solid. It’s scalable, measurable, and efficient. Second, we solved some interesting ranking problems, which allows us to mix results from many sources in the right way. Third, and most important, we put together a wonderful team that got it done. David Bailey and Dan Belov (from Engineering) and Johanna Wright (from Product Management) ( see ) lead the core team, but this was an effort of many teams over a period of time. Again, this is just the first step.

I’m very interested in the next steps. Without telling us too much (if you would like to, why, please do), what are the interesting problems in search right now that you feel well positioned to address?

As search gets better, user expectations rise even higher, and we need to improve at a faster rate. Most of our work still focuses on the fundamentals — making results more relevant, more comprehensive, for more users, in more languages. Much of this work involves pure algorithms, deep understanding of search and of the web, and just plain hard work. Just the way we like it. It is not sexy to the outside world and it doesn’t make headlines, but it has the highest impact. Most of the advances in pure ranking that we’re making aren’t obvious to users — they just find what they’re looking for more often and they take it for granted. Just the way it should be.

In addition to the fundamentals, we are involved in dozens of efforts in new areas. I wish I could brag about all the cool stuff we’re doing, but I won’t until it’s done.

Your colleague Adam Bosworth and I had a long chat recently about his work on Health. It strikes me one of the more interesting areas of search might be in domain specific search, like health. You can do things with structured results and deep knowledge of a person’s information needs in that kind of environment. Would you agree that this is an area where devoting significant resources makes sense?

Of course. What’s more important than health?

As you know, we improved the search results for health-related queries with Google Co-op, which launched last year. If you search, for example, for diabetes, we’ll offer refinements at the top of the page (treatment, symptoms, tests, risk factors, for patients, for health professionals, etc.). We are working with the major health organizations and we put special emphasis on ranking of health-related queries. A lot more work on health is being done by Adam and his team.

Given the approach of universal search, how does domain specific fit in? I mean, given that Google is bringing all search results to one place ( how does domain specific stuff like Health fit into the Google master plan?

The universal search vision is about including results of all types in the best possible way on one page — the main search results page. It does not mean that we will not invest in improving search for particular types of data, in fact it’s the opposite. By building the infrastructure for universal search and by giving every type of result the prominence it deserves we make it easier for the search group and other groups within Google to highlight the best results. We are also working on giving users specialized access to different types of data. The ranking and presentation of local information are different from that of, say, video or news. We now give users the option to play a video directly from the search results page and see a map directly on the search results page. Once you follow the link into our maps area, for example, we provide a very rich experience (with maps, satellite images, and now street view images, all integrated). One of the most important goals of the universal search project is to build new ways to handle specific data types, like maps, images, scholarly articles, or health.

Do you see Google creating stand alone destination sites around search separate from

My job is to improve search on

Well defelected, Mr. Manber. Thanks!

From the Feeds

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BoingBoing rounds up *very* interesting reader input on the implications of Street View.

Google and Ebay: gearing up for audio ads.

– “Digg for chicks.”

Ask’s commercial leaked by TC.

Whitacre still stirring the pot, though he does not have a company pot to piss in anymore (he’s retired from AT&T)…

Joi: Media companies are driving the boom.

Clip and Sling. Hell yes, this is what I’ve been talking about for years.

More Travelin' Blues

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Am on the road and probably posting lightly today. Hola, LA…..

Latest Google Buy: Peakstream

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Ars has the news:

Google has a voracious appetite for parallel computing power, and that’s Peakstream’s business. My bet is that the company plans to use Peakstream’s software internally. I think it’s also possible that Peakstream will continue to operate and to make its middleware available to customers. So if I were Peakstream competitor RapidMind, I wouldn’t uncork the champagne just yet. RapidMind’s lives just got either a whole lot easier or a whole lot tougher.

More on Peakstream and Google (Ask News)

Peakstream’s site is down, but here’s a (Google) cache.

More On The Interface

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I can’t stop thinking about this, mainly because I’m convinced it’s a key turning point in how mankind interacts with computers. Yeah, it’s joints after midnight stuff, and it’s only six pm on a Tuesday night, but what the hell. I’ll put a place holder here and get back to it…

Readers of this site and others like it are already well versed in the ongoing conversation around the “Google OS.” While that’s a fascinating topic, it’s one layer below what is presenting itself to us on an almost daily basis now – the interface level. The Web is the OS. Fine. So what does the UI look like?


One point of departure for me has been Firefox and its endless flexibility. A good thing, no? We can add all sorts of cool shit to it, and new stuff keeps coming out, from mainstream stuff like Google Notebook to custom Greasemonkey scripts.

Well, I’m sorry, but none of that is going to matter. It’s all way too hard, way too kludgy, and way too complicated. I can’t figure out Greasemonkey, and I don’t want to (nor do I know why I should). And even when you do get it to work, it’s pretty lame, as interfaces go. It’s kind of like the early releases of Windows – based on DOS, and not very elegant. I want something that blows all this away. I want the Mac OS for the Web. A sea change.

Don’t you all?

If You Like Watching the Search Interface Morph

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You’ll love what Philippe has done.

Check this out:

Google now (well, depending on if you use ‘iGoogle’)


and Lisa, the precursor to the Mac, then:


Brilliant, Philippe (thanks, Brandon).

Google And Salesforce

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Rumored for weeks, this partnership sounds interesting. From TC:

Salesforce and Google will be starting an extended partnership encompassing marketing and distribution of their products across 43 countries. It will begin with the integration of Google Adwords and Salesforce’s lead generation tools into a new application called “Group Edition”, available here. Group edition replaces Salseforces earlier version Team edition.

dashboardsmall.pngGroup Edition will enable Adwords users to track Adsense referrals to their site and build up a customer profile based on a the data a user enters into a site and their navigation path. Businesses will handle their Adwords campaigns through Google, as usual, but Salesforce takes over from there. When potential customers click through to the businesses site, Google tells Salesforce what search terms brought the user to the page and where they navigate throughout the site.