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The Conversation Is Shifting

By - March 07, 2009

Search, and Google in particular, was the first true language of the Web. But I’ve often called it a toddler’s language – intentional, but not fully voiced. This past few weeks folks are noticing an important trend – the share of traffic referred to their sites is shifting. Facebook (and for some, like this site, Twitter) is becoming a primary source of traffic.

Why? Well, two big reasons. One, Facebook has metastasized to a size that rivals Google. And two, Facebook Connect has come into its own. People are sharing what they are reading, where they are going, and what they are doing, and the amplification of all that social intention is spreading across the web.

This is all part of the shift from static to real time search. Social is the fundamental element of that shift. What are YOU doing? What is on YOUR mind? Who do YOU want to SHARE it with?

Social search has been predicted (and funded) for years. It’s finally happening. The conversation is evolving, from short bursts of declared intent inside a query bar, to ongoing, ambient declaration of social actions. Both will continue, but it’s increasingly clear why Google’s obsessed with Facebook (and Facebook with Twitter). And they are not alone.

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Snaptell

By - February 28, 2009

One more piece falling into place in my five year old example of how search is changing via mobile. Snaptell. Found via the IPG Lab in LA earlier this week, though the company has been around for a few years. TC covers it back in November here.

A Biosphere of Minds

By - December 29, 2008

From the wonderful Kevin Kelly:



While we have not yet made anything as complex as a human mind, we are trying to. The question is, what would be more complex than a human mind? What would we make if we could? What would such a thing do? In the story of technological evolution – or even biological evolution – what comes after minds?

The usual response to “what comes after a human mind” is better, faster, bigger minds. The same thing only more. That is probably true – we might be able to make or evolve bigger faster minds — but as pictured they are still minds.

A more recent response, one that I have been championing, is that what comes after minds may be a biosphere of minds, an ecological network of many minds and many types of minds – sort of like rainforest of minds – that would have its own meta-level behavior and consequences. Just as a biological rainforest processes nutrients, energy, and diversity, this system of intelligences would process problems, memories, anticipations, data and knowledge. This rainforest of minds would contain all the human minds connected to it, as well as various artificial intelligences, as well as billions of semi-smart things linked up into a sprawling ecosystem of intelligences. Vegetable intelligences, insect intelligences, primate intelligences and human intelligences and maybe superhuman intelligences, all interacting in one seething network. As in any ecosystem, different agents have different capabilities and different roles. Some would cooperate, some would compete. The whole complex would be a dynamic beast, constantly in flux.

Make you think of anything?

I Want Shoes That Look Like THIS – I Plan to Link to New Search Tools Again

By - December 06, 2008

Shoe Search

I’ve decided to start linking to new stuff in search that gets sent to me again, but be forewarned – I won’t be able to give it a full grokking. That said, a lot of new stuff has landed in my inbox, and it always bums me out to have to say “sorry guys I don’t have time.” So from now on, if something catches my eye, I’m going to link to it and give a (very) brief overview. If anyone out there wants to send me stuff, go right ahead, and know that whatever you mail to me I may borrow from to describe whatever it is you’ve built.

First up is Modista. It comes from Berkeley (GO BEARS) so perhaps that’s what tipped it for me. From the email:

We are two computer science Ph.D. students at UC Berkeley, and we’d like to tell you about our project.

Modista applies visual search to online shopping, but it’s very different from Like.com. We use the technology to enable product discovery, so users can browse huge inventories quickly and effectively. It fundamentally changes the user experience: rather than navigating text-based menus and scrolling through lists of results, you can simply rely on your visual intuition.

As we all know, our ability to sort massive amounts of information using our visual cortex far outstrips our ability to sort using textual analysis. I really like this tool, but the real test is whether my wife will!

Why Google Must Worry About Twitter

By - December 04, 2008

Because, at the end of the day, Twitter shows the shift to the realtime web (Microsoft calls it “Live Search” and T’Rati called it the live web). And if Google doesn’t own it, someone else will. More when, well, the holidays come, and I can write. Meantime, read the piece I referenced in the last post or the last tweet.

From Static to Realtime Search

By -

What Are You Doing-1

My post on the subject, while arguably arguable (yes, I know, I know, but it’s better to just say it than let it stick in your craw) is up on the Looksmart Thought Leadership site (part of an FM program I am participating in). From it (this is just a portion):

I think Search is about to undergo an important evolution. It remains to be seen if this is punctuated equilibrium or a slow, constant process (it sort of feels like both), but the end result strikes me as extremely important: Very soon, we will be able to ask Search a very basic and extraordinarily important question that I can best summarize as this: What are people saying about (my query) right now?

When it first hit critical mass, it seemed Google answered this question. For the first time, you could ask a question in your native tongue, and get an answer. It felt immediate, but save for the speed with which the search results were rendered, it was not. Instead, it was archival – Google was the ultimate interface for stuff that had already been said – a while ago. When you queried Google, you got the popular wisdom – but only after it was uttered, edited into HTML format, published on the web, and then crawled and stored by Google’s technology. True, that has sped up – Google indexes a lot of sites more than once a day now – but as it nears the event horizon, this approach to search won’t scale.

In short, Google represents a remarkable achievement: the ability to query the static web. But it remains to be seen if it can shift into a new phase: querying the realtime web.

It’s inarguable that the web is shifting into a new time axis. Blogging was the first real indication of this, but blogging, while much faster than the traditional HTML-driven web, is, in the end, still the HTML-driven web. To its credit, Technorati saw blogging as the vanguard of a shift to real time, and tried to become the first search engine for “the live web”. It failed to gain critical mass, but I think the main reason was that the web was not yet “alive”.

That is changing, rapidly. Yes, I’m thinking about Twitter, of course, which is quickly gaining critical mass as a conversation hub answering the question “what are you doing?” But I’m also thinking about ambient data more broadly, in particular as described by John Markoff’s article (posted here). All of us are creating fountains of ambient data, from our phones, our web surfing, our offline purchasing, our interactions with tollbooths, you name it. Combine that ambient data (the imprint we leave on the digital world from our actions) with declarative data (what we proactively say we are doing right now) and you’ve got a major, delicious, wonderful, massive search problem, er, opportunity.

And with that search challenge comes an equally exciting monetization opportunity.

Google SearchWiki

By - November 21, 2008

So here we go – Google is jumping into the social media search world. “SearchWiki” is Google’s answer to the question “Why can’t I make search work the way I want it to work, and share/learn from others doing the same thing?”

But one wonders if Google searchers have that question to begin with. As I’ve argued elsewhere, Google search had become a bit like the morning newspaper of yore – social glue that all of us could depend on because the results were pretty consistent. I don’t believe that search shouldn’t change – I’m a major proponent of change, particularly in the interface. But as Mike points out, many folks may not want this kind of change.

From Google’s announcement:

Have you ever wanted to mark up Google search results? Maybe you’re an avid hiker and the trail map site you always go to is in the 4th or 5th position and you want to move it to the top. Or perhaps it’s not there at all and you’d like to add it. Or maybe you’d like to add some notes about what you found on that site and why you thought it was useful. Starting today you can do all this and tailor Google search results to best meet your needs.,,,Today we’re launching SearchWiki, a way for you to customize search by re-ranking, deleting, adding, and commenting on search results.

..The changes you make only affect your own searches. But SearchWiki also is a great way to share your insights with other searchers. You can see how the community has collectively edited the search results by clicking on the “See all notes for this SearchWiki” link.

Clearly Google will learn a ton about search behavior through this new set of features, and presumably that will improve core search results. But what I find interesting in all this is what is says about what Google knows, and therefore decided to do. Google knows folks come to the site for repeat navigation – to find places they have already visited. And they know that they go there for discovery – to find things they’ve never visited but hope to find. A move like this seems to point Google toward bringing the two together, and potentially, re-portalizing the web.

What do I mean by that? Well, it’s clear that Google is the starting point for a very large percentage of folks on the web. But while many of us start there, we don’t spend much time there – we use Google as a way to jump from place to place. If, however, we can customize Google to become a one stop shop with all our favorite places, as well as comments and social connections, we may well change our behaviors and spend more time at that start place. While Google has never announced numbers, it’s commonly assumed that its iGoogle start page is getting less than stellar traction. But iGoogle + SearchWiki? That just might do it.

I’d like to post more thoughts on this development but the SearchWiki code has not propagated to my account, so I can’t really test drive it. I’m sure when it does, more thoughts will come up….

Google Voice Search

By - November 18, 2008

Readers of this site will recall my ongoing insistence that voice will be the new search interface (and honestly, the next interface for much of the web). Earlier this week, a step toward that reality was taken by Google. It’s going over well. From Cnet:



The new voice-activated Google Mobile app for the iPhone is finally here. Whatever the reason for the delay, it was worth the wait. As we wrote last week, the search app knows when you bring the phone to your face to speak into it. It beeps, you talk, and it executes a Google search on what you said.



Previous coverage of voice search on Searchblog.

Yahoo Google Deal- News

By - November 03, 2008

From a Weisel report emailed to me just now:

On Monday (11/3) after the close, The Wall Street Journal reported that Google and Yahoo have submitted to the Department of Justice a revised version of their proposed search agreement. While we see little legal reasoning behind blocking the deal, we believe the DOJ is basically saying that Yahoo can’t be trusted to do the right thing for its business over the long term.

Shortened Duration: The reported revised plan shortens the partnership from 10 years to 2 years, forcing Yahoo to avoid lowering its search monetization capability if the company can’t rely on Google for a decade.

Cap on Outsourced Revenue: The revised deal would also place caps on the revenue that Yahoo can generate from the partnership to 25% of Yahoo’s search revenues (or around $1bn annually based on our 2008 estimates). Given Yahoo had originally identified search revenues of $800mn that would be addressable for Google suggests again that the DOJ would want to put fail safe measures in place to limit Yahoo from getting too aggressive and outsource beyond the tail keywords which it had previously highlighted.

Here is a Reuters piece:

Yahoo Inc and Google Inc have drastically scaled back the scope of their search advertising deal, a person close to the discussions said on Monday, in a last-ditch effort to win U.S. antitrust approval.

The move comes after Google appeared to be on the verge of walking away from the partnership, which was announced in June to foil Microsoft Corp’s takeover attempt of Yahoo. The deal has since drawn scrutiny from U.S. regulators amid a growing chorus of criticism from advertisers.

The two Internet companies have submitted a reworked proposal to the U.S. Department of Justice that shortens their partnership to just two years from 10 years, the source said.

Jerry and I sit down to talk on stage Weds.

TweetSense

By - October 02, 2008

Prmote Twitter

I think the business model at Twitter is going to be really, really interesting, and I think it’s going to leverage search, but search as a proxy for data and pattern recognition. We get an inkling of it at Election 2008, Twitter’s mashup of Tweets relating to the election, but there’s a lot more to think through. First off, Twitter is using its real estate to promote its deal with Current, which is a first, from what I can tell. The “ads” are on the right, right below each users’ profile. I remember covering every new pixel as the Google homepage caved to promotional reality, it’s interesting to watch it happen at Twitter, too, which I think has a lot of similarities to Google in terms of potential models.

Also worth watching is the hash function, where you can tag any topic (IE #redsox, as Churbuck pointed out). This function is not likely to catch on with my mother (I can’t imagine her adding hashes to her tweets, much less tweeting…yet), but what it enables certainly could. The problem is, when you create a site to pull hashed stuff out into a stream the result is often less than useful (as Churbuck noted in his post).

This is where the role of curation and editors is paramount. Voice, as Fred pointed out. There is voice in editing, voice in curation. And voice adds value. And where value is added, marketers can play, both on Twitter (imagine a cars.twitter.com, with auto advertisers on the right rail and at the top, perhaps using contextual TweetSense – yes, it’s owned, by…), and off (think about a feed of contextual Tweets and TweetSense next to conversational sites like Digg and, well, millions of others, as well as sites created simply from Twitter feeds on popular hashes…).

Just a (half) thought….

PS – why isn’t search.twitter.com, where you can see hash streams, even promoted on the home page of Twitter? Am I missing something, as I usually do?