Ask Launches 'Image Search' Feature

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Friday, January 27, 2006
Ask Launches 'Image Search' Feature

This past week Ask Jeeves launched its first proprietary image search technology, a service which features major improvements to its image search ranking algorithms and its new "related search suggestions" feature. Jeeves has been involved with picture search since 2003 and until now the service was powered by Picsearch, a third-party provider of image search capabilities.

About Jeeves' New Image Search

Jeeves' new image search technology was developed internally and uses many of the same elements that have made its main web search unique and popular. For instance, the two search types share the same algorithmic search ranking feature which clusters the web into topic areas and determines the ranking of pages within that area.

In addition, the Ask Jeeves brings new imaging search technology and know-how to the table which will assist in the measuring of specific imagery attributes such as image type, shape, brightness, and contrast level to determine picture quality.

Image search is offered by all of the major search engines, and people tend to think it's a fairly generic service, with little difference in results between any of the engines. When in fact, Image search is tricky because images lack most of the clues search engines use to find relevant text documents that match our queries. Because images are made up of patterns of bits rather than words, search engines can't directly "look" at an image and figure out what it represents.

Instead, search engines look for other clues, such as file-names, text immediately above or below an image (potential captions), the overall context of a page an image appears on, and so on.

What Makes Ask Jeeves Unique?

What separates Ask Jeeves from the likes of Google or Yahoo!? Currently, Jeeves' image search performing all of it's tasks while also applying its Teoma ranking system to find sites that have a broad representation of images and topics. This will help to identify those sources that have the greatest degree of "authority" for a particular topic to help determine image relevance.

My Thoughts

Personally, I love this new search feature from ask, and very much enjoy the processes for how they find, index, and rank images. I believe they offer the most complete algorithm, and therefore offer the most relevant image searches of their competitors. Furthermore, Ask Jeeves has definitely taken image search to a whole new level.

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Google vs The Bush Administration

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Friday, January 20, 2006
What Google's 'Above the Fold' Algorithm Means For SEO

In an attempt to measure the amount of child pornography on the Internet and to defend the 1998 Child Online Protection Act, which is being challenged in court in Philadelphia by the American Civil Liberties Union, federal prosecutors have subpoenaed Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, and America Online to hand over millions of search records.

Without hesitation, Microsoft, Yahoo, and AOL chose to comply with the US Government's request rather than fight their subpoena in court. Google, however, denied the fed's demands and is more than prepared to give the Bush administration hell before ever complying with such a request.

Is Google Being Stubborn?

The question that everyone seems to be asking is should Google be so defensive with their search data considering what is at stake? Many feel that the company should want to exercise their good corporate image and hand deliver such information, especially if it means protecting children from online predators. Google's records from search logs would help officials understand the behavior of web users and estimate how frequently they encounter pornography. For instance, Internet addresses obtained from the search engines could be tested against filtering programs to evaluate their effectiveness.

Is The Government Asking Too Much?

On the other side of the coin, one has to ask if Google is doing right by protecting their search data and ultimately their search users. Although the government is not asking for Internet addresses that would identify people, Google fears that disclosing search terms and data would invade on its user's privacy. It's quite simple, the more our government is able to figure out, regarding whom the search engine surfers are, the more people's First Amendment rights are in jeopardy.

My Thoughts

I'm very hesitant to choose a side in this ongoing debate, but currently I am in favor of Google taking a stand. Personally, I believe that this isn't a case of who is searching what. Instead, I believe this to be a case of fishing into business structure records to try and find criminals. The US Government has already gone to the extremes with recent phone-tappings... providing them with personal and private search data would be just as violating.

Obviously, I am against child porn and do understand how serious of a matter it is. However, personal privacy and First Amendment rights are also important. It just seems to me that our government was unable to find child porn abusers using their own methods, and now wish for data that could get every single web user sued for something. Also, let's not forget that Google created a business, buys bandwidth, employs people and this is their data and their business. The Government needs to figure out how to fight this without bullying companies into giving over data such as this.

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Google Launches 'Video Store' Service

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Friday, January 13, 2006
Google Launches 'Video Store' Service

This past Friday, Google announced its newest service the Google Video Store, which will let users rent or buy downloadable videos online, including classic and contemporary CBS television shows and NBA basketball games.

I spent a few moments playing around in the Google Video Store and found that for $1.99 I could rent (for 24 hours) recent episodes of popular TV series like "NCIS", "CSI", "Survivor", and "The Amazing Race". I even found episodes of older TV programs like "I Love Lucy" and "The Brady Bunch" which can be purchased for a similar fee.

The main Google Video page has rotating feature videos categorized under "popular" and "random" sections. Most of these samples were free to view and included the notorious Tom Cruise appearance on "Oprah Winfrey," a "biker dancing silly" and a documentary claiming to expose "the conspiracy between the Free Masons, U.S. presidents and the 9/11 terrorists attacks." Needless to say, there is a little something for everybody.

Google Video Store customers will make their payments with a credit card through Google's account system, similar to what is done with the Google AdWords advertising system and other Google services. As of now there doesn't appear to be any form of advertisement in the videos or on the view web pages, however, I would bet that it's only a matter of time before Google starts offering an advertising model of some sort.

AOL's Move Into Video

Meanwhile, America Online announced on Tuesday that it has acquired video search company Truveo, a purchase that comes at a time when many top Internet companies are jumping into the video-on-demand business. AOL declined to disclose what it paid for the 12-employee company, but the acquisition was said to be an all-cash transaction and was the largest acquisition AOL has made since paying $435 million for interactive marketing company Advertising.com in June 2004.

Video search technology generally relies on finding and parsing through text documents, but if you look at video sites, there is little text information available about the video and what the video is about. Truveo's Web crawler is said to have the ability to understand visual characteristics and return more accurate search results... thus making it a very powerful resource in Video Search.

As of now, there is no news from either AOL or Google on a video distribution deal, despite the $1 billion Google agreed to pay last month for a 5 percent interest in Time Warner's AOL unit. I do think that future collaborations will be introduced later as Google further develops its own video search and Video Store programs.

Clearly online video is a mass market phenomenon and therefore it's important for consumers to have the best means to find what they are looking for. It's obvious that video search is not up to the standards of text search, but I feel that it's only a matter of time before it will be... especially when you've got AOL, Google, and others leading the way.

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Yahoo! Announces Mobile Integration

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Friday, January 06, 2006

Yahoo! Announces Mobile IntegrationDubbed Yahoo! Go Mobile, Yahoo! has announced its plans to offer many of its premiere online services, including Yahoo! Mail, Yahoo! Messenger, Photos, calendar, address book, web and image search, news, sports and finance, will now be available on mobile phones and PC-connected TVs, as well as on personal computers without using a browser.

Yahoo! Announces Mobile Integration

Yahoo! has announced today that many of its premiere online services, including Yahoo! Mail, Yahoo! Messenger, Photos, calendar, address book, web and image search, news, sports and finance, will now be available on mobile phones and PC-connected TVs, as well as on personal computers without using a browser.

Dubbed Yahoo! Go Mobile, these communications and media applications are expected to be preloaded on Nokia Series 60 mobile phones and available in 10 countries worldwide, including Cingular and AT&T customers in the United States. Additions and updates to the information in the applications are said to be automatically synched between the mobile phone and the user's account on Yahoo! servers.

Yahoo! Go TV

Yahoo! Go TV, which is expected to be available before April, will make entertainment-related services available on any PC-connected TV through a small downloadable application on the PC. The services include local and video search, including access to content from CNN and MTV, movie trailers, information on movie times, TV shows, user ratings and weather, sports scores, stock data and news from My Yahoo!. The service is said to be free, but I imagine that it will pack some sort of advertising.

Also, later in the year, Yahoo! plans to launch a service that will allow mobile users to program the recording of TV shows remotely over mobile phones, and eventually offer music services through the TV. I imagine this is the result of the Yahoo! and TiVo partnership that was announced back in November.

Yahoo! Go Desktop

Yahoo! Go Desktop brings a suite of services to personal computers that do not rely on a browser. The initial applications will be Yahoo! Widgets (formerly Konfabulator), a small widget engine that performs tasks for users like checking for the presence of a wireless network, and Yahoo! dashboard, which provides one-click access to Flickr photos, Yahoo! Messenger, news, web search, address book and calendar as well as blogs, photos and other items posted to Yahoo! 360 by friends.

My Thoughts

All in all, I believe Yahoo! Go Mobile is a monster of an idea and a great one at that. Yahoo! has got to have more than 500 million people going to their website each and every month, and their lives are locked into the PC browser. With Yahoo! Go Mobile, Yahoo! is literally trying to connect the whole internet to a device (of your choice) and a Yahoo! ID... providing a truly user-friendly experience. I give it two thumbs up!

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