Ask Pokes Fun At Google

This week much of the Googleplex is off on the company ski vacation. So Ask pokes fun by showing Jeeves sitting at his desk, clearly working, but dreaming of snowboarding. When you click on Jeeves, you see a smart answer showing the current conditions at Squaw Valley, where the…

AskskiThis week much of the Googleplex is off on the company ski vacation. So Ask pokes fun by showing Jeeves sitting at his desk, clearly working, but dreaming of snowboarding. When you click on Jeeves, you see a smart answer showing the current conditions at Squaw Valley, where the Google ski trip is taking place. Fun!

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AdWords API: Start of Something…

SIliconValleyWatcher has the scoop: Google is opening up API support for AdWords. This is a big deal (I hope) in that it lets new ecologies of AdWord-based plays begin to thrive – ideally, this will extend to AdSense, and let publishers start to actually help Google make AdSense work…

SIliconValleyWatcher has the scoop: Google is opening up API support for AdWords. This is a big deal (I hope) in that it lets new ecologies of AdWord-based plays begin to thrive – ideally, this will extend to AdSense, and let publishers start to actually help Google make AdSense work well enough to provide more than just beer money. (Gary Stein notes that Rich at Topix is doing some work along those lines via a premium program).

From the coverage:

The release of the API marks a transition for Google, from an online services company towards that of an IT platform for global ad delivery. The types of sophisticated management tools that will be available from Google and third parties should also help tie advertisers into its ad network.

via GB’d

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Isohunt and the MPAA Knuckleheads

Isohunt is a BitTorrent search engine, one of the many sites the MPAA is attempting to scare and/or litigate out of business. But the fellow behind Isohunt isn't folding his tent and going home, he's fighting. As Boing Boing points out, so far, he seems to have a far…

IsohuntIsohunt is a BitTorrent search engine, one of the many sites the MPAA is attempting to scare and/or litigate out of business. But the fellow behind Isohunt isn’t folding his tent and going home, he’s fighting. As Boing Boing points out, so far, he seems to have a far better grasp of the legal issues than does the MPAA. Isohunt simply helps people find stuff, it doesn’t host it. But the MPAA is trying to use the DMCA to force the site down. From the site owner’s response:

You repeatedly mention the “representative” list of works, which serves only to intimidate us as a search service. If you look at the Betamax vs. Universal case, the VCR was not deemed illegal since it is capable of legal use. isohunt.com is a content agnostic search service on indexing torrent links over the net, which is very much capable of legal use.

The implications here are significant, and this overall story is worth watching. Among other things, the dunderheads at the MPAA are trying to make linking to something illegal. That’s a dangerous precedent.

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The Yahoo Ticker

Tickers have been around for while – I remember during Push 1.0 everyone was downloading a stock or news ticker app for their desktop. Then everyone uninstalled it – it crashed the PC or made it unbearably slow, or was simply irritating and a waste of screen real estate….

MytickerTickers have been around for while – I remember during Push 1.0 everyone was downloading a stock or news ticker app for their desktop. Then everyone uninstalled it – it crashed the PC or made it unbearably slow, or was simply irritating and a waste of screen real estate.

Well, every good idea deserves another chance, and this time Yahoo’s on the case with a beta of a new kind of ticker, one that rolls not just stock info, but just about anything in RSS – so you can monitor, say, Technorati tags or Yahoo News alerts. Oh, and it has a search box, natch. As usual, it’s PC only, IE only. Sigh. More on the Yahoo Search Blog.

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News: AOL Puts A Stake In The Ground

As I worked on my book over the past year or so, AOL was quite significant for its absence. It didn't seem to have a strategy to speak of when it came to search, its focus on its own walled garden of access customers kept it from influencing the…

Aol SearchAs I worked on my book over the past year or so, AOL was quite significant for its absence. It didn’t seem to have a strategy to speak of when it came to search, its focus on its own walled garden of access customers kept it from influencing the broader conversation of web-based search.

That all seems to be changing now, as AOL last Fall announced it was opening up its service and was taking a more web-centric approach to its business. First major step seems to be in search: it too is throwing its hat into the ring, and the approach it’s taking should be familiar to anyone who has a Yahoo login – yup, it looks like Yahoo, with an AOL twist.

(NB: The new search is not available as I write this, I will update when is goes live. Full release is in extended entry.)

First, AOL has used Google as its core index for sometime, and this is not changing. What is changing, and what I find most interesting, is that AOL is throwing open its “Search Experience” to the general web user. AOL has developed any number of interesting tools layered on top of Google – think A9, and Yahoo till they dropped Google for their own index last year. But until now, AOL has focused on its access base – i.e. its access clients, who use PC-based client software to access the AOL service. AOL wasn’t really a search destination for anyone who wasn’t already an AOL member.

No longer. Last Fall AOL announced a business strategy shift which predicated today’s annoucement. It gave up the walled garden model, and – not surprisingly for those who feel search is critical to all things internet – their first big move toward paying off that announcement is in search.

As one might expect, AOL has joined Yahoo in taking what might be called the “media model” of search. The media model takes a person’s query and salts the results with all manners of human edited results – mostly from content the service owns, or content that the service access from partners, or content from the web that the service edits together to create what has been called “smart search”, “search shortcuts,” “programmatic search,” and the like. (To be fair, Yahoo, of all the players, is actually pursuing both a Head and a Tail approach – with their algorithmic index and in particular their approach to RSS and video search, for example, they are very much playing in the tail as well).

But AOL is taking “programmed search” to the extreme. It is, after all, a major division of a gigantic content player, and up until now, that content was locked away behind the failing access business model. No longer. AOL Search is taking the media model of search to the maximum – they have 60 full time employees creating edited “snapshots” which respond to what AOL Search chief Gerry Campbell says are 20% of all queries. That’s 2.5 million snapshots preloaded, so when you type in a popular query, you get an “answer, not just a list of results.” I imagine that number will only continue to grow. Yahoo circa 1995, anyone? This time, however, AOL only has to pre-load queries which prove out to be worth the time – the log files will tell them which ones. As will the economy. “We won’t have a smart box for a query like ‘birds of the Maldives'” Campbell told me. ” But that’s why we have Google.”

Yow! It’s not like Google is against “smart search boxes” – they do add Froogle, News, and Mapquest links when they deem it appropriate. But AOL (and Yahoo) have taken an far more aggressive approach. AOL “without a doubt” wants to to be a major web destination, Campbell says. Which will win? Eh, both.

AOL and Yahoo are playing to the head – where the money is, where the commercial value is – honestly, where most of the most popular content is. Google is playing, as a service, more to the tail. And the stuff they are adding to their new web search, combined with the stuff they plan to add, will, i think, push AOL into being a full throated contestant in the ongoing search scrum. Yippee!!!

Campbell said something interesting as we chewed through this: that AOL is creating a “query driven navigation interface,” as opposed to just another search engine.

To the particulars (and I’d love to have screen shots, but I never got the deck mailed to me that I saw online when AOL briefed me earlier today. When/if I get em, you’ll see em.)

AOL is adding a lot to its search play. First they have a new and much improved interface. Probably most impressive, at least in concept (I have not played with it) is the “SmartBox” feature which is sort of like Yahoo’s “Also Try” or Google’s search suggestion tool, but in real time as you type a query. Cool idea.

They’re adding clustering, via a deal with Vivisimo. They’re adding pay-per-call, via a deal with Ingenio (I’d love to write more about this, but I’m beat, it’s late, maybe later in the week!). They’re adding those smart boxes I was talking about. They’re adding search history – but only your last 50 searches. I think that’s lame, but Campbell told me the average AOL user searches just 20 times a month – same as your typical web surfer. They plan to watch that and possibly add more. And they’re planning on adding robust local search that integrates some of their properties – MapQuest, Moviefone, Yellow Pages, City Guides, etc.

And, of course, they will be adding desktop search, through a deal with Copernic, which is, I hear, a great desktop search tool.

Soon, Campbell told me, they plan to add localized indexing, so you can search just the part of the web that is in your region. That will be through a partnership with FAST.

And, oh yeah, they will be integrating vertical search, travel, shopping, etc. Oh, and they have added the ability for “AOL partner advertisers” to buy their own trademarks as ad terms, boxing out others. Hmmm, that smells a bit opportunistic given all the legal stuff swirling around trademarks, but hey, gotta make a buck.

Man, they’ve been busy. I can’t wait to play with it. I’ll update this post once I do.

Update: Boston.com points out that AOL’s use of FAST for local is a blow to Google. Also, my friends at Ask remind me that they had clustering, smart search, and suggest tools for years. ]]>

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(Updated) Follow On No Follow: Will “Fully web-expressed writing” Suffer?

I am still not sure how I feel about this, everyone in the comments field of the last post have valid points to make. As I understand it from the Google Guy post (and I am not sure this really is a "Google Guy" – when will Google just…

Signdo15I am still not sure how I feel about this, everyone in the comments field of the last post have valid points to make. As I understand it from the Google Guy post (and I am not sure this really is a “Google Guy” – when will Google just stop being coy and let actual real people make comments?) the rel = tag will possibly extend how comment URLs can be understood, built upon, etc. That sounds like a good thing.

But certainly then one question is, do we default to “no follow”?

Now, I’m not questioning No Follow simply because I want to ensure that those who leave URLs in a blog’s comment space get more search juice. For the most part, I agree with Danny’s approach on this question. But what bothers me is that there may well be an ecology that evolves based on the link mojo in comments which we can’t imagine, but that would be important and wonderful, and that will not develop if every comment has a tag telling search engines to ignore it. Like it or not, search engines are now processors of our collective reality, and fiddling with that requires some comtemplation.

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No Follow

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this yet, because what ends up happening is folks who leave URLs in comment fields get no search juice at all. This creates an early lock down in the blog space that I am not sure won't have unexpected consequences. On…

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this yet, because what ends up happening is folks who leave URLs in comment fields get no search juice at all. This creates an early lock down in the blog space that I am not sure won’t have unexpected consequences. On the other hand, I love the idea of f*ing with comment spammers…

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Thoughts on Picasa and Google’s Marketing Strategy

Last week I had a chance to speak with Lars Perkins, once CEO of Picasa and now GM of Google's Picasa unit. He was brimming with the news of his new product's features, so let's do a quick overview of what's new, and then I'll add a few thoughts…

PicasaadLast week I had a chance to speak with Lars Perkins, once CEO of Picasa and now GM of Google’s Picasa unit. He was brimming with the news of his new product’s features, so let’s do a quick overview of what’s new, and then I’ll add a few thoughts as to what all this means. At least, what it seems to mean from where I stand.

First, Picasa is a major upgrade, the first since its release. It adds features in four areas:

– Editing. Version 2 has more and deeper editing features, including new filters, new lighting effects and masks, new color correction, etc.

– Backup. Picasa now lets you back up to CD or DVD, and create “gift CDs” for family and friends.

– Organization. You can now tag pictures with metadata and organize them in new ways.

– Integration with other sites. Picasa announced a deal that allows you to get prints of your Picasa photos through four major photo sites: Ofoto, Shutterfly, Snapfish, and Walmart.

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Picasa 2 Ships

I noticed the news has leaked – Picasa version 2 has shipped, a major upgrade to the photo app – purchased by Google last year. More on this shortly. Congrats to Lars Perkins and his team….

PicasaI noticed the news has leakedPicasa version 2 has shipped, a major upgrade to the photo app – purchased by Google last year. More on this shortly. Congrats to Lars Perkins and his team.

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