Book Review: "The Search"

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Friday, June 30, 2006
Book Review: 'The Search'
"Every day, millions upon millions of people lean forward into their computer screens and pour their wants, fears, and intentions into the simple colors and brilliant white background of Google.com. "Peugeot dealer Lyon," one might ask (in French, of course). "Record criminal Michael Evens," an anxious woman might query as she awaits her blind date. "Toxic EPA Westchester County," a potential home owner might ask."

"Link by link, click by click, search is building possibly the most lasting, ponderous, and significant cultural artifact in the history of humankind: the Database of Intentions. The Database of Intentions is simply this: the aggregate results of every search ever entered, every result list ever tendered, and every path taken as a result. It lives in many places, but three or four place in particular - AOL, Google, MSN, Yahoo - hold a massive amount of this data. Taken together, this information represents a real-time history of post-Web culture - a massive clickstream database of desires, needs, wants, and preferences that can be discovered, subpoenaed, archived, tracked, and exploited for all sorts of ends."

I just finished reading "The Search" by John Battelle, a book that outlines how Google and its rivals rewrote the rules of business and transformed our culture, and I found it to be a great read! Seriously... its amazing! While many authors and industry publications have focused on Google exclusively for the past few years, Battelle brilliantly lays out the history of search engines and explores the reality that exists behind Google and others.

This book highlights how Google and its competition were able to find the formula to make money and still provide the world with free search listings, and how so many companies, both small and large, actually depend on search in order to be successful. To think that search engines, like Google and Yahoo!, can actually make or break a company pending on their latest algorithmic update is truly amazing.

Battelle also touches on security issues, the Patriot Act and how it can and possibly will impact us, and his opinions of how search will affect the world around us in the not-to-distant future. In fact, he shared a very interesting idea in which he believes could prove to be true as search continues to be intertwined with other technologies.

Battelle believes that one day, through a combination of cell phone and search technology, a shopper maybe able to compare prices with other area merchants while standing in an isle at a supermarket or retail store. The shopper will have the ability to scan the products information using a built in (to a cell phone) bar-code scanner and perform various local search options to determine if they can find that same product cheaper just down the road. How cool would that be?

With such technology so readily available, I immediately think of how much cheaper merchants will have to go with their products for fear of being over-priced. Either that or they'll have to start banning cell phones at supermarkets and retail stores.

If you're interested in understanding how the search engine industry and the Internet has evolved to where it is today, as well as where it will continue to evolve moving forward, give John Battelle's "The Search" a read.

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XML Sitemap Feature Coming to Yahoo! Store

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

XML Sitemap Feature Coming to Yahoo! StoreA brand new "Sitemap" feature is scheduled to be available tomorrow. This new feature will assist merchants in notifying search engines of their store's pages, and thus making each Yahoo! Store that much easier to be indexed. The Sitemap feature will create a file, which will contain a list of all store pages and their URLs, and will place it in the website's root folder.

XML Sitemap Feature Coming to Yahoo! Store

Earlier this afternoon, Yahoo! Store announced a brand new "Sitemap" feature that is scheduled to be available as early as tomorrow. This new feature will assist merchants in notifying search engines of their store's pages, and thus making each Yahoo! Store that much easier to be indexed.

When enabled, the Sitemap feature will create a file, which will contain a list of all store pages (those created in the Yahoo! Store editor) and their URLs, and will place it in the website's root folder. Much like a regular "Sitemap", this Sitemap file is used to provide information to the search engine crawlers in an effort to better the site's indexing process.

In addition, the Yahoo! Store team went the extra mile and developed their sitemap file to be compatible with Google's "Google Sitemaps" program. For those not familiar with Google Sitemaps, it's an indexing program that was created to inform the Google search engine about all of the important pages of a particular website. The program provides website owners with a birds-eye view of how Google sees their site, where spiders are having problems in the crawling process, and many additional statistics.

Here is an excerpt from the Official Yahoo! Store Blog regarding the Google Sitemaps capabilities:

"Once the Sitemap file is enabled on the Search Engines page, merchants will also be able to proactively inform search engines about pages in their store by submitting their Sitemap file to programs such as Google Sitemaps."

"To further support the benefits of the Google Sitemaps program, we will also be introducing a feature also found on the Search Engines page that allows merchants to verify ownership of their stores with Google. Once ownership has been verified, merchants will then be able to access additional tools and features from their Google Sitemaps console."

If you happen to be the proactive Yahoo! Store owner and are interested in bettering your store's search engine placement, be sure to give this new feature a shot.

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Taking a Stand for "Net Neutrality"

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Taking a Stand for 'Net Neutrality'Net Neutrality is a term used to describe the idea of treating every Internet user the same. Under this idea, all users should have the right to access all of the Internet's content and they should be able to do so at the same speed and without additional fees. There are 2-sides to the Net Neutrality debate. There are telecommunications companies and then everybody else.

Taking a Stand for 'Net Neutrality'

I imagine that many, if not most, of you have already heard about the "Net Neutrality" debate/bill that's currently heating things up in Washington... at least in some form or another. Today I plan to shed some light on the subject, by introducing the ideas behind the debate, as well as sharing my own personal thoughts regarding "Net Neutrality".

What is "Net Neutrality"?

In the simplest terms... net neutrality is a term used to describe the idea of treating every Internet user the same. Under this idea, all users should have the right to access all of the Internet's content and they should be able to do so at the same speed and without additional fees.

The Debate / Bill

There are 2-sides to the Net Neutrality debate. There are telecommunications companies, specifically your telephone/internet providers, (Side A) and then there's everybody else (Side B).

Side A - The Telecommunications Industry

The telephone companies believe that they should be the ones to regulate the Internet. Essentially, these companies want to end the idea of "net neutrality", and create a two-tier system that would allow these Internet providers to charge website owners at different levels pending on how fast they wanted their content delivered.

The Telecommunication industry is responsible for creating the infrastructure the Internet runs on, and they spent billions of dollars doing so. Now they find themselves seeking additional revenue to pay for the necessary upgrades needed to handle today's Internet, specifically the new broadband and video-rich content. Setting up a two-tier system, such as the one they're proposing, will allow them to generate it.

Side B - Everyone Else

Obviously by "Everyone Else" I mean those that don't stand to profit an excess of $2 Billion a year from ending "Net Neutrality". These people, and frankly I'm one of them, believe that the Internet is an intangible space in which everyone should have equal access to everyone else, regardless of how large or small they are or how traditional or unconventional they become.

"Side B" believes that on the Internet, a business shouldn't need the permission from their Internet provider to communicate with a customer or to begin a new and innovative service. This group wants to keep the Internet as is and without additional taxation and limitations set forth by the Telecommunication industry.

How does this affect you as a user?

Should the Telecommunication industry win this debate, they'll forever change the Internet as we know it. Everything from shopping to browsing to researching will have changed. Small businesses and content providers who cannot afford the new Internet tax will be limited by slower Internet access and thus make their sites less accessible as well as less appealing. To sum up this idea a bit futher, Telecommunication companies want to turn the information super highway into two lane road... one being a fast lane in which website owners must pay to use, and the second being a slow lane that nobody wants to use.

Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, describes it best in his recent statement:

"The phone and cable monopolies, who control almost all broadband Internet access, want the power to choose who gets onto the high-speed lanes and whose content gets seen first and fastest. They want to build tollbooths to block the on-ramps for those whom they don't want to compete with and who can't pay this new Internet tax. Money and monopoly, not ideas and independence, will be the currency of their Internet."

What Can You Do About It?

If your one of the millions of Internet users who side with "Side B" and oppose the idea of a two-tier Internet that's based on additional fees than I encourage you to rise up and make your voice heard. Internet companies such as Google, Microsoft, and eBay have already begun leading this fight, and hopefully as more and more take an active part in this issue the more congress will realize that this is a bad idea. Its Our Net.org.

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Ask Introduces A Blog Search Service

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Thursday, June 01, 2006
Ask's Introduces A Blog Search Service

Ask staked its claim in blog search yesterday, when it launched it's new, long awaited blog search service. This new search service will help Ask to capitalize on the keen interest in the topics and debates covered by blogs that aren't easy to find on traditional online news sites. Both Google and Yahoo! have made similar plays months ago, and its nice to see that Ask has finally joined the party.

The obvious question remains though... what does Ask bring to the blog search table that its competitors don't? Well I had a chance to play around with this new service and in addition to the many small features we've come to expect from Ask, 4 features clearly stand out to me.

Unique Indexing and Ranking Methods

Instead of crawling the Web for blog postings to build an index to search like others do, Ask is using the index already created and updated by subscribers to its popular Bloglines site for searching, subscribing to, creating and sharing blogs and news feeds. This feature will significantly reduce the amount of blog spam that appears within most Blog search engines, as well as enable Ask to offer fresher blog search results than those offered by its competitors.

A "Sort By" Feature

Users can sort search listings according to relevance, most recent, and even popularity (according to Bloglines).

Binoculars Feature

This Feature allows users the ability to preview most of the site/blog post without having to leave the search results page. Simply roll your mouse over the "binoculars" image and a pop-up appears.

"Subscribe" and "Post To" Options

Bloglines users, as well as those who use rival Blog and RSS feed readers (like Google's and Yahoo's), can subscribe to the blogs that show up in the search results, and without having to leave the page. Users can also post their search listings to Bloglines or Yahoo's Delicious or Digg.

This new search service is expected to be integrated into Ask's Bloglines site, which is similar to what Google has done with Blogger. Furthermore, I find the search results far more relevant (with less spam occurrences) than what Google and Yahoo! currently offer. It will be interesting to see how things progress from here.

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