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Finding a Yogurt Shop A Mile Away: I'm Not Feeling Lucky.

By - August 19, 2010

I don’t know about you guys, but I see way too much of this when I search Google lately.

Tonight I was looking for a particular frozen yogurt shop in Edgartown, which is a town on the island where my family has spent portions of the summer for the past 100 or so years. This was a relatively new shop, but not that new.

Anyway, we forgot the name, so I Googled “yogurt edgartown.”

Here’s what I got:

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OK, none of the local results are even on the island, much less in Edgartown. So strike one.

I’m familiar with the first result below the map, but that’s not the place I mean. Strike two.

The third result is clearly some kind of aggregator, but maybe they have an up to date directory I can look at. It’s called “American Towns.” I’ve never heard of it. Do I trust it? I dunno, maybe. So I click.

I get this:

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Look at that for a minute. There’s exactly ONE “organic” result on that page, and by the way, it’s not what I’m looking for. The rest are ads that in no way help me.

This is not an unusual result for me lately. How about you? When it comes to finding places via Google, I’m not really feeling lucky anymore. Any suggestions as to what I should have done to find that yogurt shop?

Wait, I have an idea. What if Foursquare or Facebook had Places search? Man, that’d be great! I could search for yogurt shops in Edgartown, and I bet, without a doubt, I could find what I’m looking for. Do they? Nope. Should they? Yep.

Just saying.

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AT&T Weighs In: Trust Us, We Know What You Want

By - August 15, 2010

So I’ve read this post – Wireless is Different (AT&T blog) – several times now, and while AT&T is a respected brand, I have to differ on this policy issue. In this post, AT&T’s policy folks weigh in on the Verizon/Google dust up, saying “it’s really hard to do what we do and therefore we need to be seen as different.”

I’ve heard this before, a million times, and I don’t buy it. As I recall, it’s what the telcos said back in the mid to late 1990s, when they noticed the Internet eating up their wired (before wireless data) network, and didn’t want to be consigned to being “dumb pipes.” They complained that it’s really, really hard to do the kind of high quality, low down time service required for phone calls, and that the Internet was getting a free ride on all that hard work they did to lay the pipes, routers, and QoS (quality of service) processes down that allowed the Web to blossom.

Now that we’re going from wired to wireless, these same folks don’t want “the open Web” to happen to them again all over again. If they have to compete in an open marketplace, with the best applications and services on neutral ground, well, they’ll just be consigned, once again, to a commodity service layer with low margins. That’s their greatest nightmare. It’s far better to have a monopoly position as a gatekeeper to all our bits: to decide who can compete, and take tolls all along the way.

Ugh. Look at the way AT&T defines the debate in its post: “In order to provide consumers with the high quality wireless broadband services that they demand, wireless carriers must to be able to dynamically manage traffic and operate their networks in an environment free from burdensome, arbitrary and unnecessary regulations.”

In other words, *we* know what’s best for you, *we’ll* provide the services you want and need, so don’t *you* worry your pretty little head about things like, well, starting companies on a level footing, or providing services over our networks that we’ve not already pre-ordained or blessed.

Again. Ugh.

AT&T, this can’t stand. I appreciate you for many reasons, and I am a customer many times over. But this can’t stand and I hope the FCC has the backbone to do the right thing.

No Quaero: Good Luck With That, China

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China has announced it will build a state run search engine to compete with, no wait, dominate and overrun, its own semi-autonomous upstarts Baidu (CEO Robin Li is coming to Web 2 this year) and Yahoo-backed Alibaba (CEO Jack Ma came in years past).

All I can say is “Good luck with that, China.”

If search engine share is seen as equivalent to vote counts at a rigged election, I have no doubt that the Chinese state engine will have a commanding share within a year. But in the hearts and minds of sophisticated Chinese users, there will be no doubt as to what the state run service is really all about. Control.

Reminds me of a highly touted, and now forgotten, European effort to start a continental search engine called Quaero. You don’t remember it? You are not alone. Fortunately, you hang out with search geeks like me. Here’s my final piece on that albatross.

It can’t be a lot of fun to run Baidu right about now. Makes me wonder if Google knew this was coming when it chose to step out of China. If it didn’t, man, does it look smart now.

Or Maybe It's Really About (Google) TV…

By - August 11, 2010

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Yesterday I posted some thoughts on the Google-Verizon framework, offering what turns out to be a pretty widespread sensibility, at least in the punditocracy, that this whole thing feels off, not like Google, counter to the brand.

There had to be another reason Google would do this, something super important that forced its hand, something so crucial to its own perceived future that it would be willing to upset its core brand advocates.

But what? I wrote: “it gives me the sense that the two parties are colluding in some way, creating and/or obscuring potential loopholes which will allow side deals in other parts of their business.”

I then suggested this had to do with Android. And perhaps it does.

But a very well placed source just sent me a thoughtful note, and it immediately stuck a nerve. Perhaps this has not to do with Android as much as it does the future of television.

Google TV, according to those that see it, is very very powerful stuff, and a major weapon on Google’s war with Apple (not to mention Microsoft and others). It’s streaming, interactive HD with the web folded into it (and it’s based on Android). And to work, it will need a fast lane on the ol’ info superhighway. Screen shot 2010-08-11 at 8.52.45 AM.pngA really fast lane. And perhaps, preferential treatment to boot.

Might Google petition that Google TV is an “Additional Online Service” outside the protected net neutrality framework it’s developing with Verizon? Such a service sure would drive subscriptions for Verizon and customers and advertisers for Google.

Hmmm. I think I’ll ask.

Second (Day) Thoughts on Google-Verizon Framework – Isn't This All About Android?

By - August 10, 2010

Today’s Washington Post has a second day editorial from the CEOs of Verizon and Google on their proposed legislative framework first announced Monday. Here it is:

Eric Schmidt and Ivan Seidenberg – From Google and Verizon, a path to an open Internet

I read this article three times and I am still not sure what exactly the two are trying to express, or what problem they are trying to solve. Are Google and Verizon in violent disagreement, but together have decided they can live with this compromise? Did the FCC ask the two to sit in a room and not come out till they had an agreement? If so, why?

And what kind of agreement is this? What’s the predicate? What obstacle stands in their way such that they had to get in the room in the first place? Is it really an enlightened attempt by two giants to further debate around a key policy issue? Or is it something else?

As it stands, this piece feels written by committee, and while it may not be fair to say this, it gives me the sense that the two parties are colluding in some way, creating and/or obscuring potential loopholes which will allow side deals in other parts of their business. In particular it raises my eyebrows as it relates to mobile, which the two companies suggest should be outside the framework. This feels forced. Something else is up. Does this have to do with Android, which has become to Verizon what the iPhone is to AT&T? Apple, after all, has pretty much got AT&T pinned down (though lord knows net neutrality ain’t gonna fly in Steve Jobs’ version of the Interwebs). I imagine Verizon, whose partner Google is well known for its pro-net neutrality stance, is not too happy with how the chess game might have played out. Did Verizon force Google into this position?

Because the position feels, well, not particularly “Googley”.

I’d love to be wrong. But this piece doesn’t make be comfortable. I’ll keep digging in, and if you have seen anything that might enlighten me, let me know. The proposal is here. More links as folks start to digest the news:

Google-Verizon plan: Why you should worry (Salon) Dan Gillmor’s analysis. In essence, he is arguing that the framework creates two Internets, one open and public, but over time ignored as an investment platform, the second private and fast, but expensive and dictated by corporations. Ick.

Google-Verizon Pact: It Gets Worse (HuffPo) A rant from the Free Press, which has been all over this since the beginning. Biased, but compelling.

Google and Verizon Offer a Vision for Managing Internet Traffic (NYT) The Times’ news take. Sums up the concerns pretty well.

Google Has A History of Agonizing. Will This Be a Chapter, or A Conclusion?

By - August 09, 2010

The Wall St. Journal has a compelling story about Google executives, including Page and Brin, struggling with the vast amount of actionable data available to the company, and what to do about it, even before Facebook pretty much forced the Internet giant to play their hand. A must read.

If any of you recall Google’s agony over China, its entry and then its withdrawal, this will certainly sound familiar.

Skype Files for IPO – Is This a Trend?

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As I was reading through the Demand Media S1 (more on that as soon as I get a bit smarter on a few financial issues), I noticed that Skype just filed to go public.

Wow. Here’s the S1. It’s another Goldman/Morgan joint, with JP Morgan in there as well.

From what I can tell, Skype has a complicated financial profile, due no doubt to its life inside eBay. But once again, this is a company that, when you clear out the accounting gymnastics, looks to have a pretty interesting profit potential. And it clearly has scale.

More as I read through it.

Demand Media Files To Go Public, First Impressions from the S-1

By - August 06, 2010

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It’s the dog days of August, and a Friday to boot, and I certainly didn’t expect this to land in my mail box this morning: The Demand Media Inc. S1. But I had set an alert for the company – and several others like LinkedIn and Facebook – because I consider Demand to be one of the most important digital media companies to “take the next step” in several years.

The information revealed in the filing explains why. While Demand has been at the center of a months-long debate around whether or not “content farming” is a defensible practice, the facts are the facts: This model is working, and not just in a one-dimensional fashion.

The question remains if Demand will be seen by investors as more than a secondary search arbitrage play – it is dependent on Google for a large portion of its revenues, at least for now. But CEO Richard Rosenblatt, who for the record I count as a friend and colleague (he shares an investor, Oak, with my company FM), has steered the company higher up the content food chain – creating and purchasing brands such as eHow, Livestrong.com, and others, and fostering content partnerships with respected brands like USA Today and Hearst.

Revenue for 2009 was nearly $200 million, and seems on track to grow past $250mm or more this year. I’ll have more on the company during the weekend, once I’ve had time to really grok the filings.