free html hit counter January 2010 - Page 2 of 3 - John Battelle's Search Blog

Signal From Noise

By - January 21, 2010

Media and Marketing stories that interest me today:

Kindle Will Get App Store (NYT) – I’ve been on about this for a while now, and finally, it seems Amazon is getting a clue. I’m guessing the impending launch of the iTablet, which certainly will have an app store (like the iPhone does), is pushing Amazon to open its doors to developers. About time. For marketers, this ideally will become a new channel into which you can extend your app-based platform ecosystem, assuming you do it in a way that adds value.

A Twitter Tracker for Jersey Shore (clickz) – What, Battelle likes Jersey Shore? Not really (though I have watched, astounded on so many levels). What I think is worth pointing out is the concept of Twitter tracking in general. Curating and adding value to conversations around brands is a skill all marketers must have going forward. Witness the first (and one of the best, I’ll submit humbly), Exectweets, and one of FM’s latest, Amex Open’s Pulse.

The Top 10 Fastest Growing Sites on Web, 2009 (Comscore) – I’m proud to say FM is one of them. Others of interest: Kodak (!), Nintendo, UPS, Hallmark. Interesting that several of them are brands, not media properties.

Rock Band Opening Up (Mashable) – It’s not quite what I predicted earlier this month, but there’s 11 months to go and this is a step in the right direction.

Report: Kids and Their Screens (Kaiser Foundation) – It’s worse (and better) than you thought. “Today, 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes (7:38) to using entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week). And because they spend so much of that time ‘media multitasking’ (using more than one medium at a time), they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes (10:45) worth of media content into those 7½ hours.”

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Google, The Software Brand

By - January 19, 2010

One of my predictions this year (#2) focused on Google becoming a software brand. To my mind, every interaction with a brand strengthens a consumer’s understanding of what the brand means. And with that in mind, this dialog box, which has been popping up every so often on my desktop, certainly screams “Google is a software brand” to me.

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In the past, just two other companies have had this kind of a relationship with me: Apple and Microsoft. Whenever those dialogs pop up on my desktop, they’re reminding me “Apple and Microsoft are software brands”. Add Google to the list – and scratch “search, and only search” from its list of brand attributes.

The Evolving Search Interface: Mobile Drives Search As App

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I’ve said before that search interfaces, stuck in the command line interface of DOS, will at some point evolve into applications on top of a commodity search index. I further opined that Bing, in particular Bing’s limited but compelling visual search, was just such an example: search as an interactive, rich application, as opposed to search as a list of results.  

The commodity of search results is critical, but as we shift our usage to the mobile web, the use case for a list of results weakens. Instead, as this Bizweek article points out, we’re using apps. On their face, these apps don’t seem like search at all. Except they are.

Take the popular iPhone app Exit Strategy, for example (at left). The app helps folks navigate the NY transit system. In essence, it consolidates a subset of search queries and answers them with a combination of domain-specific structured results and an elegant user interface. The structured dataset is the NY transit map and schedule, the UI is based on the iPhone’s unique ecosystem of interface. The result: No one with this app is Googling “best route Bronx Midtown“. Instead, there’s an app for that.

Google can’t help but see this as a threat. For nearly every structured set of results, there’ll be an app for that, if there isn’t already. To my mind, the question becomes one of using search to find the best apps. I wonder how Google is surfacing iPhone apps as answers to questions pertinent to destroying its own query volume? For it seems to me that a very good result for the query above, if done on Google over an iPhone, would be “Exit Strategy.”

Huh. Yet another reason to lean into Android, no doubt.

An Apple Search Engine?

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….driven by the need to kick Google off the iPhone? An interesting idea. Worth thinking about….

From a Businessweek article:

Some analysts believe the Apple-Google battle is likely to get much rougher in the months ahead. Ovum’s Yarmis thinks Apple may soon decide to dump Google as the default search engine on its devices, primarily to cut Google off from mobile data that could be used to improve its advertising and Android technology. Jobs might cut a deal with—gasp!—Microsoft to make Bing Apple’s engine of choice, or even launch its own search engine, Yarmis says. “I fully expect [Apple] to do something in search,” he adds. “If there’s all these advertising dollars to be won, why would it want Google on its iPhones?”

The China Story

By - January 14, 2010

It’s my sincere hope that this blows up, not over. With reports coming in that the Chinese government was most certainly behind the attack on Google and 20 other companies (and has done this before), and that the White House is now supporting Google’s position, it’s about time that we call a spade a spade here. What China is doing is wrong, regardless of how much debt of ours they hold. Looking the other way in the name of pure profit is a practice whose time should end.

Update: Cato has an interesting take on how the Chinese hackers got in: by leveraging infrastructure Google put in place to help the US Government do wiretaps. Thanks to reader Brandon Byers for this.

Another update: Xian Qiang, who I taught with at Berkeley and launched China Digital Times earlier this decade, has a take here.

Oh, the Humanity: The Database of Intentions At Twitter Is Empty (After Two Weeks)

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I was stunned to learn, via Danny, that our collective tweets seem lost to eternity (or at least, to search). While the data exists, tweets can’t be found via search, which means they can’t be found via the search API, which means…well, they can’t be found. I hope this situation is rectified, if only for history’s sake.

(Danny notes that they can be found using Google or Bing, at least for now. That’s a relief. But it does not bode well for Twitter’s ability to scale.)

Google's Tortured History With China

By - January 13, 2010

china-flag-wave.jpgGoogle yesterday surprised Wall St. and its partners with the announcement that it may pull out of China (most expect it will, given the politics of making such a statement, the move is most likely assured). Google said that “hackers” had leveraged its infrastructure to target Chinese dissidents. To my mind, that means Google has discovered that China’s government is using Google’s networks and data, and Google realized that can’t stand, for any number of reasons. (Including that US and European based activists were targeted – via phishing and other similar types of scams).  

Google further noted that at least 20 other companies were also being targeted, and it has been in contact with those companies as well.  

What’s interesting and consistent to me is that Google has been here before – at the same time that Google was entering China (Jan. of 2006), the US Dept. of Justice demanded data from Google as part of a child porn fishing excercise, and Google refused to comply, and then went public, in essence becoming a leader in data rights by forcing the government’s hand.

In this case, Google is again taking a leadership role, and the company is forcing China’s hand. While it’s a stretch to say the two things are directly connected, the seeming fact that China’s government was behind the intrusions has led Google to decide to stop censoring its results in China. This is politics at its finest, and it’s a very clear statement to China: We’re done playing the game your way.

From the blog post:

We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down, and potentially our offices in China.

As I wrote in the book and here, Google was never entirely comfortable with getting into China, and used a fair amount of tortured logic to get to the point of committing resources back five years ago. From one of my posts:

There’s still time to pull out, guys. I’ve read your rationalizations, and Uncle Bill’s as well. I don’t buy them. I don’t buy that this is what, in your heart, you believe is right. Sure, I understand the logic. But, well….in your heart, is this what you wanted to do? No? Then why did you do it?

….I was having dinner with some dear friends tonight. They asked me why did Google do this? My answer: I think they convinced themselves it was the right thing to do. They thought themselves into it. And deep down, they aren’t sure they did the right thing. At least, that’s what I want to believe. Sure, Microsoft is going to go in. Yahoo and IBM are going to go in. But Google? We thought…well, we thought you were different.

Apparently, Google is.

Google's Next Mountain to Climb: Customer Support

By - January 11, 2010

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Google has never had a great reputation for customer support – back in the “hair on fire” days of 2003-2006 the lack of a human response to search engine marketers’ questions was a huge complaint.

Now the company is going direct to consumers with a major phone launch. As I wrote about a year ago (about Google Voice):

…the concept of Google boiling the vast Oceania Vox is very, very compelling. But then again….I find it hard to trust Google is really serious about this market. For example, how many real live customer service reps does the company plan to have tasked to this product? That, to me, is a Very Important Question. It’s the essential human question that drives Google. I bring it up all the time. Community. Media. People. How do you make people scale?! How does Google, a company driven by algorithms and scale, find its Voice?

So far, the early results seem to point to what one might expect: Google is not set up to do good customer service in the complicated smartphone/network services/telecomms marketplace. From an article in PCWorld today:

If you buy a Nexus One manufactured by HTC, directly from Google’s Web site, and use it with T-Mobile’s wireless network–who do you call when you have a problem? Google is only accepting support requests via e-mail, and users are getting bounced between T-Mobile and HTC as neither seems equipped to answer complaints, or willing to accept responsibility for supporting the Nexus One.   

What I said about Google Voice I think also applies to the NexusOne: If it’s effortless, if it works without having to call someone to help me make it work, well, it’s a huge, huge hit. But this is telecommunications. I have a hunch it’s harder than that.

NB: Very interesting to see that Google is promoting its NexusOne under the keyword “customer service.”