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Google Takes Aim at Wikipedia, Is Now Officially a Media Company

By - December 14, 2007

This one really blows me away. Everyone has noticed recently (over the past few years and in particular lately) how dominant Wikipedia is in Google results.

Well, I guess Google’s noticed too, and decided it wants to own the second click, as well as the first. From the Times UK piece:

Google is launching a rival to Wikipedia, the world’s most popular online reference work.

The new user-generated Google website, dubbed “knol”, will be free to read and will invite “people who know a particular subject to write an authoritative article about it”, Udi Manber, a Google engineer, said on an official company blog.

From the official blog post announcing know (“unit of knowledge”), written by Udi Manber, a fellow I have a lot of respect for (see my interview with him here):

Our goal is to encourage people who know a particular subject to write an authoritative article about it. The tool is still in development and this is just the first phase of testing. For now, using it is by invitation only. But we wanted to share with everyone the basic premises and goals behind this project.

The key idea behind the knol project is to highlight authors. Books have authors’ names right on the cover, news articles have bylines, scientific articles always have authors — but somehow the web evolved without a strong standard to keep authors names highlighted.

ER, HELLO!? This is a direct response to Wikipedia, where the articles are written by a committee process with no attribution, and the main complaint is lack of authority or opaque bias. Wow. I guess that’s how Google plans to compete.

What do you all think? Will it start to beat Wikipedia in organic listings? Or will it matter, as Google can simply one box it, like Yahoo does its owned and operated properties, and push folks to the pages where the margins are better for Google? The post addresses this:



At the discretion of the author, a knol may include ads. If an author chooses to include ads, Google will provide the author with substantial revenue share from the proceeds of those ads.

Question: Please define “substantial”?

And what about editing and community and such?

“Google will not serve as an editor in any way, and will not bless any content. All editorial responsibilities and control will rest with the authors. We hope that knols will include the opinions and points of view of the authors who will put their reputation on the line. Anyone will be free to write. For many topics, there will likely be competing knols on the same subject. Competition of ideas is a good thing.

Knols will include strong community tools. People will be able to submit comments, questions, edits, additional content, and so on. Anyone will be able to rate a knol or write a review of it. Knols will also include references and links to additional information.”

Huh. And what about ranking, how will knols rank compared to say, well, Wikipedia articles?

Our job in Search Quality will be to rank the knols appropriately when they appear in Google search results. We are quite experienced with ranking web pages, and we feel confident that we will be up to the challenge. We are very excited by the potential to substantially increase the dissemination of knowledge.

We do not want to build a walled garden of content; we want to disseminate it as widely as possible. Google will not ask for any exclusivity on any of this content and will make that content available to any other search engine.

Wait a minute! You mean it won’t just be the magic Google black box that ranks them? You mean HUMANS are going to get involved here?

Wow.

That’s all I can say. Wow. (Head is shaking….firing off email to Udi!)

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More GoogleClick News: Influential Congressman (Very Publicly) Asks a TON of Interesting Questions

By - December 13, 2007

Dbclk-2

From Cnet/Declan’s blog:

A top Republican in the House of Representatives is demanding that Google answer a barrage of questions about privacy, some of which are related to the company’s proposed purchase of the DoubleClick advertising firm.

Rep. Joe Barton, who has positioned himself as a privacy advocate and previously criticized the merger last month, complained in a letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt that the company had initially agreed to let his aides visit the so-called Googleplex in Mountain View, Calif. but then didn’t confirm a date. Barton is the senior Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has Internet regulation as one of its responsibilities.

Interesting to see what Barton wants to know about, his letter to Google outlining his requests about the company’s information use and technology is very, very extensive. Snippets:

To help us better understand the privacy and consumer protection implications of this transaction, please respond to the following questions:

1. Please describe Google’s retention policy with respect to the following data. Include in your response a description of the type of data retained (for example, URL, Internet Protocol [IP] address, date, time of connectivity); the length of time the data is retained; where the data is retained; who has access to the retained data; and how the data is removed, deleted, or anonymized once the retention period lapses.

a. Search queries on Google search;

b. Search queries on Google maps;

c. Search queries on Google news;

d. Search queries on Google images;

e. Email sent, received, or drafted on Gmail;

f. Information or data collected or retained through a website’s use of Google Analytics;

g. Information or data collected or retained from an individual’s use of Google Desktop Search, including the Google Desktop Search feature, Search Across Computers;

h. Google Maps for Mobile;

i. Google Web History Program for registered Google users/Google users with sign-in accounts;

j. Information or data collected or retained from an individual’s use of Picasa;

k. Information or data collected or retained from an individual’s use of Calendar;

l. Cookies.

2. Please explain how Google uses the information or data described in Question 1(a) – (l), including, but not limited to, the following uses: perfecting Google’s search algorithm; operating Google’s advertising programs such as AdWords and AdSense; and research or analysis of user activity on www.google.com.

… 5. In particular, please explain whether Google Maps directs advertisements to IP addresses based on that user’s Google Maps search query history.

6. Please explain how and why information is combined or shared across platforms when consumers opt-in for personalized services and whether Google first requires consent prior to such information-sharing. (For instance, whether search query data is shared with or linked to a user’s Gmail account.)

…. 11. In Google’s privacy policy, “personal information” is defined as “information that you provide to us which personally identifies you, such as your name, email address, or billing information, or other data which can be reasonably linked to such information by Google.”

a. Please describe how Google interprets “reasonably linked.”

b. Please explain in what circumstances Google links information

such that an individual can be identified.

c. Please explain whether Google considers an IP address to be “personal information.”

d. Please explain whether technology exists to personally identify or determine the personal characteristics, including, but not limited to, name, email address, physical address or location, age, gender, or ethnicity of an Internet user based on that user’s IP address.

e. Please explain whether Google is capable of identifying or determining personal characteristics, including, but not limited to, name, email address, physical address or location, age, gender, or ethnicity of an Internet user based on that user’s IP address.

…. 20. If the merger of Google and DoubleClick is approved, please describe what use Google plans to make of the data retained and collected by DoubleClick (for example, data from DoubleClick’s tracking cookies or DoubleClick click-stream data), and whether Google plans to combine or merge DoubleClick’s data with data Google retains from individual search queries and other user activity on www.google.com.

a. If Google does not intend to merge or combine the data Google retains with the information or data retained or collected by DoubleClick, please describe the efficiencies of the Google-DoubleClick merger. (emphasis mine) b. If Google does not intend to merge or combine the data Google retains with the information or data retained or collected by DoubleClick, please explain how the information will be segregated.

…24. The House passed the Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass (SPY ACT) in the current and prior two Congresses. The SPY ACT, H.R. 964, sponsored by Representatives Mary Bono and Adolphus Towns, mandates an opt-in privacy regime by prohibiting the collection of personal information from a computer without a user’s notice and consent prior to the execution of any information collection program. H.R. 964 also demands that a user be able to easily remove or disable the information collection program. Please explain whether Google’s applications are subject to H.R. 964′s consent requirements. If the answer is no, please explain why these programs, which collect personal information, are not subject to the consent regime established by H.R. 964.

I for one and very, very happy Rep. Barton has laid this out, and very eager to see what response will be given.

Update: Henry speculates that this may be the work of MSFT.

Google Zeitgeist 2007

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Google Zeitgeist 2007

Is now up. There are five categories, including the main one: Newsmakers, Showbiz, “All the Rage,” and Top of Mind. At the bottom Google has decided to leverage what I am sure will be the significant interest in Zeitgeist to highlight some of its search functions like calculator and movie showtimes.

Sacca Leaves Google

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Chris Sacca, head of special projects at Google (the latest was around wireless spectrum policy), as left to pursue angel investing, VentureBeat reports.

FB to Google: Open This

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From allfacebook, news that Facebook is going to export their platform to the whole web. More here.

In the next step of opening up Facebook Platform, Facebook is now making its platform architecture available as a model for other social sites. Facebook will even license the Facebook Platform methods and tags for use by other platforms, which means that the 100,000 developers currently building Facebook applications can make their applications available on other social sites with no extra work.

This is clearly a response to Google’s Open Social. And it’s not the only time I’ve noticed, in the past month, a market leader scoffing at Google.

Take for example this quote from Nokia on Android in the Times recently:

“We’ve seen an announcement,” Nokia’s chief executive, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, said with more than a hint of sarcasm. “Conceptually, we could have made that announcement a long time ago.”

I think it’s interesting to see companies that might otherwise tremble at the Great Google shrug and say “we could do that.”

Yahoo Does Bloggers A Bigup

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Yahoo is launching a WordPress plugin that allows WP bloggers (not me, I use Six Apart) to:

Find and recommend the content for blog posts by bringing it to the bloggers, rather than them having to copy and paste code.

Control the content by allowing webmasters to decide if the recommended content and UI are correct.

Enrich the experience on their sites by making them more streamlined, readable and inclusive of great content from Yahoo! sites including Yahoo! Autos, Yahoo! Finance, Flickr, Yahoo! Maps, Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Shopping, Yahoo! Travel and Yahoo! Web Search.

Shortcuts are part of Yahoo!’s long-term strategy to understand Web users’ intent and deliver the best results and experience no matter the content type or source….

ER…seems like there’s a pretty significant bias toward Yahoo content, so far, but it’s a start…

65%: Google Nearly at Two Thirds, Hitwise Says

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Infoweek:

Google (NSDQ: GOOG) accounted for more than six of 10 online searches in the United States in November, more than triple the amount of its closest rival Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO), a Web metrics firm said Tuesday.

"Untracked Digital Alternatives"

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I love this, which I found via IWantMedia:

Media Ad Spending Drying Up Quickly

Total measured advertising expenditures grew just 0.2% to $108.2 billion in the first nine months of the year, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Television, radio and print media all took a hit. Increased spending on “untracked digital alternatives” contributed to the slowdown.

I got yer untracked alternatives right here, brother!