Archive for Google

Welcome to the Dark Site

Posted in Internet with tags , , , , on July 28, 2008 by manuscrypts

The story of the day has been Cuil (pronounced Cool), a new search engine. So, what was so special about this that everyone sat up and took notice? Well, for starters, it has to do with the starters. (okay, bad one) – ex-google personnel. In addition, it boasts of indexing 120 billion pages, a semi-semantic approach to search (understands connection between words and will help throw up better results thanks to better page ranking) and it does not store IP addresses. While I’m not averse to doing a complete review, I think there are those who are better qualified for that, this one is quite a sharp and comprehensive piece, and has amazing links too. And this, is a riot!! 🙂

All I’ll say is that the number of indexed pages is not exactly the benefit I’m looking for as a user, the relevance of the results is. And when a search engine learns to beat Google on that, and consistently, we’ll talk. I tried various searches on Cuil, and while the display is arguably better (since it shows more details and lets me know if thats the page I was looking for), the results, unfortunately are no match for Google. I liked the energy saving (?) black touch though, visually, puts it bang opposite Google’s white. 🙂

On a sidenote, if you’re interested in looking at cluster based search engines, give Clusty a spin, and do me a favour, check out the others in this list too, and we can compare notes 🙂

Also, I’d like to think that a one-up on search is also not enough to be a google killer. Google is so entrenched in the way we operate these days, that even starting a mindshare battle would be an uphill climb.

Meanwhile, Google has also been poking its nose in Wikipedia territory, with the launch of Knol. Though its been said that its more similar to Squidoo, the broad territory remains the same. But unlike wikipedia, where there is one entry per subject and users add/delete/edit, there can be several ‘Knol’ s on each subject, and creators can earn revenue, courtesy Ad Sense. The final authority for accepting changes on his Knol rests with the creator.

I, for one, shall stay with wikipedia, because Google these days is overwhelming me, and making me quite afraid of its monopolistic potential on the web. Imagine the kind of grip they would have over users, when say, it decides to throw Knol results above wikipedia results. Decides to put knol widgets inside orkut, blogger, youtube, lively and so on? All of them with relevant Ad Sense banners, which help users to make money. Yes, there might be better products out there in each of those verticals I’ve mentioned, but who can challenge them on an integrated bouquet?

In such a scenario, Google may not be able to resist the temptations of the Dark Side.

until next time, don’t be evil 😉

Advertisements

Better..Best..Bested

Posted in Brand, Internet with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 10, 2008 by manuscrypts

A long time ago, during those heady MBA days, a few of us had put together a theme for the batch – kaizen, a Japanese philosophy for constant improvement. I think it still holds a lot of relevance with regards to the way brands treat themselves. Google, while not the web’s knight in shining armor it used to be, still teaches a lot of lessons, and I remembered them when i read this article on how, perhaps the first killer app on the net – email is now being challenged by things like micro-blogging platforms.

Remembered them because, even though they were late entrants into the arena, the ‘invite’ marketing really worked for GMail, and though competitors matched or improved their storage space factor, GMail was so good, that I have never felt the need to consider an option. Thats also because while most other players stopped after they matched the space and minor additions, GMail kept improving, and still does – check this and this. And the counter on the GMail homepage continues to increase. Constant improvement.

Meanwhile, the proposed competitor to email, micro blogging, and more specifically Twitter also seems to be on a constant improvement mode. After being heavily criticised for their downtime, they seem to be getting that under control and now the rumour mills are abuzz with their proposed purchase of Summize.

On the flip side, I saw a video sharing site – Viddler.com, with some pretty cool features, like being able to add tags and comments right within the timeline. So when a scene appears, the comment appears right then. I haven’t seen too many innovations from YouTube recently. I also read a nice article recently, on how del.icio.us had perhaps lost the chance to become Friendfeed. Intriguing, right? Perhaps, Yahoo may be getting the message, and hence this radical move in the search space, where lots of new players like Yoozilla, Gloofi, Evri and possibly a dozen others are cropping up and doing amazing things that Google is perhaps missing out on. And while Google ups the ante in virtual worlds with the launch of Lively, there is Vivaty, which is ‘virtual world meets social networking’

So, is improvement a function of current size? When a player gets beyond a certain size (in terms of products, sales, manpower and so on) is it then tougher for them to improve constantly.? Does the growth curve plateau and newer, smallers start taking the shine off from the once nimble large player? If we stretch that and step back a bit, is that the reason why say, a traditional set of players like newspapers are having problems adjusting to the web (generalising here) while new entities like Instablogs or possibly soon, a Topix (a potentially cool site, you must take a look) increase in popularity and relevance?

In the future, will this constant improvement create a scenario where services will, in short time frames , change so rapidly, that they will bear only a slight resemblance to what they started out as, with only the brand name being a constant, a brand that stands for the cutting edge in that service category?

until next time, zen and the art of constant improvement

Mobilisation

Posted in India, Internet with tags , , , , on June 17, 2008 by manuscrypts

For those in India who look forward to the internet taking a major stake in ad spends, this (via PluggdIn) cannot be music to your ears. While the internet spend has grown by over 90% in 2007, as far as absolutes go, its a mere 2% in the overall media spend. And with the total figures increasing for all media, its a case of the rich getting richer, and the poor getting much lesser than what they deserve. Ironically, The Times Group finds a place among the top spenders on the net.

In this report, mobile has been included under digital which has internet, search and mobile. I think its only a matter of time before it becomes a separate category altogether. Like i have written earlier, the mobile is poised to become the internet’s saviour in India. Which is one of the reasons why I’d consider this news very significant – Yahoo has announced a tie up with Idea and MTNL for mobile advertising as well as One search. The SMS search was launched late last year. And if we go by the interesting stuff that Yahoo has been doing globally, the space is bound to throw up some fun stuff considering that Yahoo can leverage all its content from mail to messenger to social media on this platform. (Remember the Reliance-Yahoo Messenger ad?)

Meanwhile, their friends at Google have not been idle either. Their SMS search was launched just before Yahoo. Their deal with Airtel was also well hyped and they have also launched a voice based local search earlier this year. (while on that, this one – Ubona is an interesting service in Bangalore)

Also, its not just the web giants who are fighting for the mobile advertising pie. One example would be Nokia’s acquisition of Enpocket, which already services a few clients in India. And in this context, one cannot afford to ignore the major happening in october (hopefully) and the impact it would have on internet access via mobile.

until next time, net losses

Going Glocal

Posted in India, Internet with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 1, 2008 by manuscrypts

Heard here that Yahoo had launched its local search. I had been quite impressed by Yahoo Cities earlier, and had started referring to it more and more for events in the city. My only grumble was that i couldn’t get a feed for it. In addition to events, they also have news, answers, maps, travel, blogs, videos and podcasts, a forum among other things.

There were a lot of the usual suspects missing from the list above, so when i read the news, i assumed that this would be complementary, and to a certain extent, it is. I was kinda disappointed because i had thought that Cities would be scaled up to include the missing parts too.

Yahoo Local has listings of restaurants, pubs, fitness centres, and a host of other services that are a part of the regular city life. Some of the data is provided by Indiacom and users can also add businesses. The site also asks for reviews, which means Burrp, Needgrub etc will face heavy competition, especially if Yahoo promotes this through city targeted (say) email bursts. Don’t know about Burrp, but Needgrub has carrots for reviewers.

On other fronts, it also means competition for Ask Laila, Guruji, Sulekha, mycitybuddy, buzzintown, just dial, Yulop, KyaKare, and Onyomo, who at one point of time was way ahead. Also, the other name that springs immediately to mind is a certain company called Google, who had gone local sometime back. I also saw another step from them recently. But i think Yahoo has upstaged them in this case. Meanwhile, I don’t use Yahoo Maps and cannot therefore comment authoritatively on the same, but given the crowd above and the kind of services some of them offer, Yahoo’s integration of Yahoo Maps may not be a quantum leap. Also, I was quite disappointed with the directions within the city that Yahoo gave (although vernacular is a good start). At least in Bangalore, this one is much better, the only snag is that nobody updates one ways!!! And that, in Bangalore, is about as dynamic as the average Indian politician’s loyalties.

But like i said earlier, I wonder why they have developed Cities and Local as two separate entities. Wouldn’t a one-stop-shop be much more useful to the average user in this case? For example, given that most events happen at public spaces like auditoriums, malls, hotels etc, and these find a listing in Local, what additional value can Cities bring to the table? News can also be easily integrated into Local, especially if it can be made sub local.

If a combo happens, what I’d be really be happy to see would be a customised search toolbar and say, a widget, that gives me local news updates as well as updates on events happening around town. With messenger, Yahoo Groups etc the possibilities, as the cliche goes, are endless.

In fact, a local website could be the perfect platform to get into social networking with a twist. The site would already have the skeleton ready – think about it – you are interested in buying a book, there are listings of bookshops, the community gives you reviews and the shop that gives you the best discount, they can even recommend similar books…. similarly with plays, music, food, and all the other things that you entertain yourself with. Instead of a global scene like Facebook, you can actually start realising the virtual life… no, i didnt mean poke!! Hold Scrabulous tournaments, go trekking, organise Flixster quizzes, find people who enjoy similar movies and actually watch it with them…. Real Social Networks, get the drift?

until next time, no more locally challenged?

Sab Kuch Mobile main?

Posted in India, Internet with tags , , , , on April 2, 2008 by manuscrypts

A few days back, it was announced that Airtel and Google had come together to launch Airtel Live.  Since I’ve not been there myself, I’ll take their word for it in terms of quality and the value for customers. Sometime back, the launch of  Google search on Airtel had helped a lot of TV channel sales guys meet their targets. 🙂

Around the same time, there was also the news of Yahoo and Reliance continuing their association with oneSearch being made available on Reliance. Yahoo Mail and Yahoo messenger were already available. Other services that users can avail of are financial news, Yahoo Answers, Flickr, Wikipedia etc. Its relevant to note that Yahoo also has deals going on with Idea, BSNL among others. At this stage, I’m guessing that this is only applicable to GPRS sets. Meanwhile, its also interesting to note that Reliance’s IPTV dreams will be powered by Microsoft’s platform, though with the dismal broadband penetration, this is a very long term game.

So, what we’re seeing is good old convergence, not just of content and platforms, but the providers also.  AOL, Rediff- anything happening yet? Reliance has been releasing its blog ads for sometime now. Its quite a neatly made ad, which keeps the message simple. And for the last couple of days, I’ve seen a new ad being aired (damn page refuses to load, though), one thats co branded- Reliance and Yahoo, and thats for messenger. Its again a very simple, neat ad, which clearly succeeds in communicating the message. There’s also some (though not very large) push being given by Yahoo online though a contest where you can win Moto handsets by logging on to YM through your Reliance mobile.

So Reliance will blog on its own and use Yahoo for services, for which Yahoo has already made a name for itself. Smart. I wonder where all this is going though? Moblogging has been on for quite sometime, without any of these guys being involved.  While this may help broaden the base of bloggers (thanks to the Reliance reach), is there a value add that I get by choosing Reliance blogs over say, blogger? The SMS, MMS also cost a bit, anyway. So, I wonder… Anyone care to educate?

until next time, a digital maze

Zen & the art of SNS monetising

Posted in Internet, Social networking with tags , , on March 28, 2008 by manuscrypts

The thought started from this article, which talked of how Google was losing top execs to Facebook. It apparently isnt just a phase because SNS (social networking sites) are increasingly grappling with the issue of revenue, or rather, the lack of it. These hires apparently fit the bill.

Remember the initial days of the net? I don’t because i was a pretty late starter myself (2000- a virtual space odyssey, thats what my book would be called 😀 ), but that was still the time when (at least in india) revenue was a puzzle for everybody in dotcom, which partly explained the bust that soon happened. They had a partial solution happening with banner ads, and slowly that became the norm. In most places, it still is 😐 . the problem was that to most users, it became a blindspot.

Then came Google, and the era of contextual ads, first in searches as sponsored links, and then in any site in the context it  had content in. It still works. But the net has moved on. So, users know exactly when its useful to them. This is of particular relevance in the case of social networking sites.

At a basic level, I go to SNS to have a conversation with friends –  that could be just plain catching up, bitching about work, life etc or (thanks to facebook) just sharing a common interest over a game of scrabble. Can contextual ads work here? It was a difficult question to answer until one takes a look at the Facebook revenue scene. I personally don’t think it does, for the simple reason that, well, the context is wrong. Unlike search, where my intent is clearly info/purchase, its not so in SNS. This video, while totally out of context, shows what i mean about intent.

So how does a free site (for users) like Facebook get revenue, and god forbid, if they don’t, will they shut down? No, dont call Mummy yet, this WATBlog article clearly shows the Chinese (damn them) have found a way to monetise their SNS, especially QQ. ( what a name. dont ask me kyun) And its not online ads, thats only 13% of the revenue. The rest is from virtual goods, services and mobile.

But i personally think there’s more that can be done. And that has a direct connection to brands. We’ll discuss that next week, after i hear from you.

until next time, remember you need to be social 😀

Add Sense

Posted in Brand, Internet with tags , on March 13, 2008 by manuscrypts

Read a very nice article today on rediff, about Google’s nine innovation rules. Coming from Marissa Mayer, VP of search products and user experience, it underlines why Google’s offering always strike a chord with the audience. While I’m one of those who’re becoming increasingly uncomfortable with Google and its (non) privacy, and its journey away from ” Don’t be evil”, it still manages to get my attention, inspite of all the old enemies (eg. Yahoo with Flickr, del.icio.us, Answers etc)and new upstarts (eg.Facebook) at various boundaries of its kingdom.

More than random preaching on innovative practices one hears during sermons, she manages to link innovation to simple philosophies that should ideally be practised by all workplaces which consider itself to be ‘innovation practitioners’. The 20% time for pet projects, the sharing network between employees, the treatment of data as apolitical, the idea generation processes all speak of a system which thrives on experimenting and trying out new things, and that, i guess is the reason why Google has reached where it is in such a small timeframe.

Meanwhile, i was also influenced by the very first principle, ‘innovation, not instant perfection’. Its a difficult lesson to learn, especially for perfectionists (and wannabes 🙂 ), but it just might be a better way in the long run.

until next time, go ogle