free html hit counter May 2008 - John Battelle's Search Blog

Early Wired Images

By - May 28, 2008

Ah, nostalgia. That’s me bent over the work of editing Wired back in the day. Thanks Pesco…

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Initial Web 2 Summit Lineup Up, Registration Is Open

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My partners at Web 2 told me today that the new website is live, the initial theme is up and posted (I am very excited about this year’s theme) and if you haven’t gone before, you can request an invitation to come here. Last year we had nearly 10,000 requests for an invitation, so if you want to come (Nov. 5-7 in SF) please fill out the form asap. I review each request personally.

The first line of speakers is also up, and there is a lot more cooking. Initial speakers include Jack Ma, Anne Wojcicki, Mark Zuckerberg, Marc Andreessen, Ken Auletta,

Richard Rosenblatt, Lance Armstrong, Ralph De la Vega, Paul Otellini, Mary Meeker, Padmasree Warrior, Kevin Johnson, Joel Hyatt, Mathis Wackernagel, Marc Benioff and Vinod Khosla.

From the theme:

The Opportunity of Limits:

Sustaining, Applying and Expanding the Web’s Lessons

The commercial web is now a teenager—it’s been fifteen short years since Marc Andreessen released the Mosaic browser. To put this in perspective, television as a commercial medium reached its fifteenth birthday in 1956—the year Elvis Presley made his first appearance on national TV. National news broadcasts were still in their infancy, “As The World Turns” debuted as America’s first half-hour soap opera, and “The Price Is Right” began its dominance of the game show genre. Commercial grade videotape recorders emerged, portable black and white television sets were introduced, and the first local color broadcast aired in Chicago.

Fifteen years after television’s birth, the contours of the new medium were just emerging. The idea that this revolutionary new phenomenon—one busily reshaping the very fabric of society—might one day become just another application on a vast web of computers, well that idea wasn’t exactly in vogue.

In the first four years of the Web 2.0 Summit, we’ve focused on our industry’s challenges and opportunities, highlighting in particular the business models and leaders driving the Internet economy. But as we pondered the theme for this year, one clear signal has emerged: our conversation is no longer just about the Web. Now is the time to ask how the Web—its technologies, its values, and its culture—might be tapped to address the world’s most pressing limits. Or put another way—and in the true spirit of the Internet entrepreneur—its most pressing opportunities.

As we convene the fifth annual Web 2.0 Summit, our world is fraught with problems that engineers might charitably classify as NP hard—from roiling financial markets to global warming, failing healthcare systems to intractable religious wars. In short, it seems as if many of our most complex systems are reaching their limits.

It strikes us that the Web might teach us new ways to address these limits. From harnessing collective intelligence to a bias toward open systems, the Web’s greatest inventions are, at their core, social movements. To that end, we’re expanding our program this year to include leaders in the fields of healthcare, genetics, finance, global business, and yes, even politics.

Increasingly, the leaders of the Internet economy are turning their attention to the world outside our industry. And conversely, the best minds of our generation are turning to the Web for solutions. At the fifth annual Web 2.0 Summit, we’ll endeavor to bring these groups together.

I can’t wait for this year, it’s going to be great! And there is a lot of room for speakers still, in particular with an eye toward this theme. Please make your suggestions in comments here. Help me make this as good as it can be! Thanks.

Liveblogging: Yahoo's Decker and Yang

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After a funny film featuring nearly every luminary under the sun giving Yang and Decker advice (Buffet, Stringer, Zuckerberg, etc) Yang and Decker took the stage and Walt immediately asked them about the MSFT deal. Yang agreed that they could not get to a price, but that there were other issues as well, regulatory is one that came up, but I can imagine others (ie, approach to open source, total installs of Outlook at Yahoo, etc.!).

What is the concept around the Google deal? Yang: We feel strongly about how we monetize search, but there is clearly a value gap between us and (Google), we want to make it clear to our shareholders that there are other untapped sources of value that should we want to tap that…could be significant…” We’ve conducted tests with them and we have some understandings…as to the level of discussion…we are uniquely positioned ….should anything be done (between Google and Yahoo) it’d be unique… yahoo has the ability to remain very competitive in the advertising space…the level and flexibility of how we might partner has not been well understood…(he doesn’t want to talk about it)…

What about losing search share? yang talks about Panama, over the last two years we’ve closed the gap against Google by quite a bit (in terms of pricing), now we’ve shifted our focus back to driving query growth, which is growing on an absolute basis. yes behind Google but we feel it’s about innovation and differentiation…becoming more open as a search platform (yes!) what we’d like to see…is us more aggressive …I feel the search game is pretty early…

Walt asks about all the turmoil, losing people, etc. Sue answers that Yahoo managed to hire 600 people during the turmoil, turnover is about the same. And that the product pipeline is really looking good. “We have the chance of a lifetime to show what Yahoo can do” – the turmoil has been uniting, she says.

Yang: There a lot going on, I am not going to deny that. But the perception of us as a company under siege is not accurate. …The process has in many ways pulled Yahoo together. …There is a sense that Yahoo is getting weaker, that we can’t be independent anymore. We can’t be any more clear that Yahoo was going through a period where we are transitioning to a place where we …are a lot stronger.

But what is Yahoo, to you? Walt asks. It’s not clear to us in the room. What is Yahoo? The focus is “starting point.” Sue: That’s a little bit of a change. We are focusing on four areas, home page, search, mail, and mobile. People come multiple times a day to these places.

yang: We are rebuilding yahoo from a platform perspective to be more open. Imagine developers being able to program on top of Yahoo as a canvas. (Imagine) Yahoo Mail with a group of developers working on it…same for Yahoo’s home page….conceptually it’s similar to Facebook but …it’s Yahoo, (the implication being that the results will be a hell of a lot more interesting than, say, Facebook’s platform.)

I am publishing this now, the wifi is very shaky here, will update as I can…

Update: Jerry makes point “we did not walk away, Microsoft did.” “It was not clear to me they wanted to (finish) the deal…”

Sue: We think our inventory is undervalued…we know how much value there is on search side, we also know that 90% of the web’s inventory is not search and we are about to launch a system that makes it easier to buy and sell display. There is an enormous asset there. …

Don't Give Up Lotus, er, I mean Microsoft!

By - May 26, 2008

Mike makes a good point here in response to Tim’s point of view, and Tim counters here. It’s a very interesting debate, one between two folks I’ve partnered with for some time (Mike’s TechCrunch is part of FM, and Tim and I have partnered on any number of things, including Web 2, Make, and several sites that are also part of FM). So I’m a bit conflicted as I watch these guys debate.

However, one thing I will assert: Search is more than a subsystem of Web 2, as Tim puts it. I think search has become the interface to Web 2, and so I agree with Mike that Microsoft should not abandon it. It’s how we navigate the world of knowledge, and it’s way too early to say we’re done with the evolution of that navigation. But as Tim also points out: “a platform beats an application every time”. Damn right! That’s why I think Microsoft (or Yahoo) should innovate in search, as I pointed out here and here. If Google were to open its platform up, man, then it might well be game over. An open platform that has near monopoly share? Now that’s something to ponder.

Is Microsoft Cashback the Future of Search?

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Ms Cashback

As promised, I’ve posted some thoughts on Microsoft’s Cashback program over at Thomson’s Future of Search site. From the post:

….In essence, Microsoft has taken the affiliate model – where merchants pay channel partners for leads which turn into sales – and turned all of us into potential partners. If it sounds like a crass play to buy your search allegiance, well, it is. But was crass too, and it turned into a multi-billion dollar market, the ultimate expression of which is Google. So before you judge it, it’s worth thinking about a bit more deeply.

There’s no doubt that with Cashback, Microsoft is attempting to disrupt the search marketplace. But there are only a few axes around which you can do that. One, you can disrupt the presentation of search. This is very hard to do, but it’s happened before, and will happen again. Secondly, you disrupt the business model of search. And third, you can disrupt how search is created (ie, the secret sauce of relevance). There are startups along every one of these axes of disruption. But with last week’s news, Microsoft is focusing on the second one (business model). Unless, that is, you read between the lines. That’s when we see the beginnings of disruption along lines one and three as well. ….

…. Lost somewhat in the analysis so far, I think Farecast is a key part of Microsoft’s strategy – it’s a disruption along the first axis of search – how search is presented. Those of you who have read Searchblog for a while may recall my initial post on that site: Rip Me Off No More. It really struck a nerve, I had more comments on that post than nearly any other in the history of my site. Turns out, people really like a search engine that promises to 1. help them find the best price and 2. does it in a trustworthy, intelligent, and timely fashion. …..

Is disrupting the business model by paying search customers when they buy something a good idea? I think it is. But it’s not going to work unless we trust the search results in the first place. That’s where Farecast comes in. In the short term, Cashback will probably goose Mircosoft’s user loyalty numbers, which should also boost its share of searches overall. But longer term, the key to winning will be the integration of Farecast-like innovations into Microsoft’s offerings. I’d look for these to come in the next year, if not sooner.

Let me know your thoughts…

Weekend Update

By - May 24, 2008

Thanks for all the feedback on the new design. We’re going to push it live this Sunday night and keep tweaking it, there were a ton of good suggestions and we can’t get them all in at once. I prefer to launch and iterate, rather than try to get everything perfect.

Secondly, I am going to work on two pieces of writing this week. Both will probably be posted in full at the Future of Search site, but I’ll summarize them here as well. The first will be a rumination on what the future might look like if a major like Microsoft of Yahoo opened its index fully (for a tiny bit of background, read this), and the second will be roughly titled “Is the Future of Search About Getting Paid?” That one will be my thoughts on Microsoft’s recent news and its deeper implications.

So if you have thoughts on either, let me know!

A Brand New Searchblog

By - May 22, 2008

I started FM three years ago because of what I learned starting Searchblog. And today, FM is giving back to this site. One of our engineers, Ivan Kanevski, who along with many others has helped me troubleshoot the site in recent years, told me that he’d done pretty much an entire redesign of Searchblog in his spare time. I looked at the comps and loved it. I was about to ask him to just push “publish” when I thought, wait a minute, I better ask my readers!

So here’s the comp. What do you think? I for one love it. But I said that already, sorry.

Brand New Sblog-1