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That Said…Web 2 Conversations, Mark Zuckerberg

By - October 20, 2008


I am interviewing a lot of interesting folks starting two or so weeks from now at Web 2, Chris DeWolfe, Edgar Bronfman, Larry Brilliant, Lance Armstrong, Paul Otellini, Jack Klues, Michael Pollan, Elon Musk, Shai Agassi, and many more.

But I thought I’d start by asking you all this one question: Mark Zuckerberg is coming back (check the video of our interview here). What should I ask him this time? I have a lot of thoughts, but thought I’d start by asking you all….

The Web 2 Launch Pad: Deadline Is This Week, Submit Your Company!

By - September 29, 2008


It may seem like a long way off, but the Web 2 Summit is in less than six weeks – right after the general election. And this year’s Launch Pad, where we honor six of the best companies in the space, will close its application process this Friday. (The original deadline was Weds, but it makes sense to give folks till the end of the week.)

Launch Pad is a bit different this year, and I’ve heard anecdotally that folks are not sure if they should be submitting their companies because A/ They think they have to be looking for funding or B/ their companies don’t match what we’re looking for in terms of industry. So to clarify:

A/ Launch Pad companies are reviewed and judged by leadings VCs (Khosla Ventures, Mohr Davidow Ventures, NEA, Omidyar Network, Panorama Capital, and Sequoia Capital), but there is no requirement of a “funding need.” The goal is to honor six great private companies, not six great private companies who need funding.

B/ We are indeed looking for companies in a particular sector, one we call “Web Meets World.” It’s a pretty broad category, but it falls into two rough buckets:

1. Companies working in alternative energies, social entreprenuerialism, microfinance, developing economies, political action, renewable technologies, and the like (we’ll be particularly interested in where these companies display significant cross over with the web, of course, but this will not be required.)

2. Companies addressing where the Web literally meets the world: cloud computing-enabled mobility, mapping and geolocation, sensor networks – anything where the Web and the real world intersect.

We’ve already got a pretty big group of companies who have applied, but I’m eager to have as many as possible join the process. There is no fee to enter, the Launch Pad is sponsored by VCs involved in the program. So if you’re at a company working at the intersection of the Web and the World, please apply! The link to do so is right here. I look forward to seeing you at the conference, it’s really shaping up to be the best in our five year history (more on the program and speakers here).

Yahoo Formally Unveils APT Ad Platform

By - September 24, 2008

I’ll grok this soon, but is anyone else tired of claims of “revolutionizing” advertising? From AdWeek:

Yahoo! executives are not setting low expectations for the company’s forthcoming advertising platform, likening its effect on advertising to the advent of color television and introduction of the DVR.

At a press conference to unveil the newly renamed platform, now called Apt, Yahoo!’s top executives promised a sea change in how advertising is bought and sold across thousands of Internet sites. Yahoo! will introduce Apt widely in 2009, with its 784 newspaper partners using the system by the end of this year.

Doc On GACL: Game Changer

By - September 23, 2008

Doc outlines why Google Android Chrome Linux changes the game in mobile web.

Well, then the game changes. Remember back when Marc Andreessen raised Microsoft’s hackles by saying Netscape would “reduce Windows to a set of poorly debugged device drivers”? Netscape failed to do that, but Google won’t. It’s not just that Google is Netscape II, it’s that Google has a platform here. At the bottom that platform is the OS of your choice. At the top is a browser built from the start to run apps and not just pages.

Chrome: This Is Web OS, Make No Mistake

By - September 01, 2008


Why launch Chrome (Google’s new “browser”) when Firefox, Google’s favored son, is doing so well? Because Google needs its own. Using a comic book to introduce it is fun, and certainly, there’s always room for new approaches to platform and interface, and Chrome looks to have a lot of neat new features and a fresh approach. But what this really tells us is that Google is dead serious about the distribution business, for one, and dead serious about the operating system business, for another. Reading through the book, I am struck by how similar the language is to traditional operating system overviews. Multithreading, stable development platforms, etc. etc.

With the IE 8 in beta, and Firefox going strong, it looks to be a good season for innovation on the Web.

Updated: Exclusive: A Look at Google Ad Planner Data Vs. Comscore

By - August 14, 2008

When Google Ad Planner came out back in June, I immediately thought of Comscore – and I was not alone. Many in the marketing industry thought that Google’s product would be a “Comscore killer,” and when I noted as much in my coverage, Gian Fulgoni, Comscore’s chair, shot back in a comment to my post:

Hi John: Before celebrating the availability of these products from Google, I think it would be prudent for web site operators to compare their site traffic numbers as obtained from their server logs (or Google Analytics for that matter) with the unique visitor numbers that Google is now publishing through Google Trends and Ad Planner. I think they will be astonished at how much lower Google now says their traffic is.

I asked Gian to elaborate, and published the resulting interview here.

But until now, we’ve not had the data to back Gian’s claim. I asked him if he could provide it, and to his credit, he did. The story it tells is certainly not what one might expect. (Of course, the data is from Comscore, so it must be taken as such, but remember, Comscore is a public company that stakes its reputation and its market value on data, so my gut tells me that Gian is not trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes.)

A bit of background: Anyone paying attention has noticed that publishers, by and large, believe Comscore’s panel-based measurement system grossly underestimates traffic and unique visitors. As a publisher myself (FM represents more than 160 middle to large sized sites, including this one), I’ve been one of the most visible such complainants. And that list is not short. In fact, Comscore and Nielsen are both working with the Interactive Advertising Bureau (I am a board member) on an audit of their practices to verify their methodologies. (Comscore notes that it believes the issue of cookie deletion can cause significant inflation in unique visitors, for more see this release.)

Given this, the world expected that Google, with its unparalleled access to web-wide data, would validate publishers’ concerns and show that Comscore’s numbers were significantly under-reporting reality.

Turns out, the reverse is true. Gian provided me data comparing Google Ad Planner and ComScore data in two cases. First, for a large sample of 20,163 sites, his shop compared reporting on monthly uniques between the two services. Secondly, Gian pulled out 5,398 sites that are part of the Google Adsense ad network, and ran the same comparison.

The results are pasted in these two charts (provided to me by Comscore):

Comscore-Google Uv Graph 2

Google-Delivered Ads Graph

What to make of the numbers? First off, it’s quite interesting to see that Comscore measures, on average, a significantly higher number of uniques across all types of sites. Comscore’s numbers are three to three and a half times higher, according to Comscore.

Secondly, for sites that are using Google’s Adsense network, the undercounting is not as dramatic (that’s the second chart.). As Comscore’s charts note, there seems to be a “significant bias in Google Ad Planner data” toward “sites that carry more ad impressions from Google.”

In short: If you were a media planner using Google Ad Planner, and you were looking for larger sites, you would be led to sites that are running Google AdSense, on average, over sites that do not. Net net: This data indicates that Google Ad Planner pushes ad dollars to Google sites over non-Google sites. This makes sense – Google has data on Google users, after all. So that data might naturally bias toward Google-related sites.

But as I said in my coverage: “Such a tool must be neutral and not bias advertisers toward buying on Google properties or those that have Google ads, which of course is going to be a perceived bias in any case. Such is the price of being Very Big.”

So far, not so good on this measure. As Gian and Comscore have long pointed out to me, it takes more than raw data to make for good measurement. Ideally, you weight your data with a lot more knowledge of its context – what kind of machine is creating it (work or home? Man or woman? etc.). While Google once blended Comscore demographic data into its ad network, Comscore confirmed to me that this is no longer the case. And while it is subject to endless criticism, Comscore does have a lot more practice at this game than does Google. At least for now.

This data once again raises the question, long asked, of how Google is measuring in the first place. Most believe Google must be leaning heavily on its Toolbar data (see TC for more here and Danny here), and this data does nothing to counter that argument. The strong bias toward Google network sites is suspicious – one can imagine that folks who might install the Google toolbar are clearly already biased toward visiting Google-related sites, for example.

But Google will not acknowledge any use of the Toolbar. Instead it said in its announcement: “Google Ad Planner combines information from a variety of sources, such as aggregated Google search data, opt-in anonymous Google Analytics data, opt-in external consumer panel data, and other third-party market research.”

As I pointed out earlier, I don’t think such coyness can stand. I’ve pinged folks at Google to get a response on this, and as soon as I do, I’ll update this post.

UPDATE: Google has provided a statement to me:

We take the objectivity of Google Ad Planner very seriously in providing advertisers and publishers with a better understanding into online audiences. While we don’t comment specifically on our data collection methods, Google Ad Planner in no way treats AdSense sites differently than non-AdSense sites.

Al Gore Joins the Lineup At Web 2 Summit

By - August 07, 2008

Ag Headshot-1

Those of you following my posts around the theme of this year’s Web 2 Summit already know that we’re expanding the scope of the conference this year, and asking a core question: How can we apply the lessons of the Web to the world at large? From my post outlining the theme:

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.

To my mind, no person better exemplifies the merging of these two worlds than former Vice President (and Nobel laureate) Al Gore, the Chairman of Current TV. Gore and CEO Joel Hyatt started Current as “a new breed of media company that works with its young adult audience to create media that informs, enriches and inspires,” by integrating online and offline media, a very Web Meets World endeavor indeed. Readers may recall that Gore recently joined Kleiner Perkins as a partner focused on green issues, as well. And we are very pleased to announce that VP Gore will be joining us at the Web 2 Summit this year.

Others joining VP Gore include Elon Musk, of PayPal, Tesla, SolarCity and SpaceX, Larry Brilliant, the head of the foundation, and Michael Pollan, author of many wonderful books on our relationship to food, including my favorite: The Botany of Desire. The full lineup is truly wonderful, and we’re still adding speakers.

Requests for invitations can be found here, this is going to be one special event.