In a way it’s pretty incredible that “Google” has become synonymous with search. It really should make you think of advertising, and perhaps in 25 years, it will. Today Google ventured further down that rabbit hole, acquiring one of the web’s oldest ad companies (via Scoble):
Google reached an agreement today to acquire DoubleClick, the online advertising company, from two private equity firms for $3.1 billion in cash, the companies announced, an amount that was almost double the $1.65 billion in stock that Google paid for YouTube late last year.
Two days in a row now, I’ve seen news break on Twitter. Last night it was the earthquake in Mexico City, and today this acquisition. This is pretty significant, don’t you think?
Anyway, I don’t think Google buying DoubleClick is earth-shattering news. It’s not much of a stretch if you consider Google to be an advertising company, as I do. What’s more interesting is that Microsoft was apparently trying to purchase DoubleClick too. Why? I can only imagine it was an attempt to harm Google.
A few hours ago I was reading some of the stuff on TechMeme, when I came across this article about Google. I thought Dickson might find it interesting, so I fired it off to him in an IM. He replied a few moments later with this quote from the article:
Google wants companies that can build revenue streams from their users, instead of buying firms with a lot of users that don’t bring in much in sales, Ullah said.
“We don’t do traffic for traffic’s sake,” he said. “It has to be highly monetizable.”
And then followed that up with this message:
Haha so true! Ullah, who is Google’s director of corporate development, basically just described the very company they purchased last year for $1.65 billion. Which begs the question…what kind of companies do they really want?
Powerset is back in the news again (you may recall they were ‘discovered’ back in October), this time for winning the exclusive rights to search technology developed at the famed Palo Alto Research Center in Silicon Valley. The technology essentially allows Powerset to understand the meaning of your search query (you know, “natural language” as they call it). Apparently Google is developing something similar. Here’s what VentureBeat says:
Clearly, Powerset faces challenges. Even if its technology does prove to be useful, it isn’t clear how long it will keep any lead (in natural language) in the face of an onslaught from Google. Another challenge is changing peoples’ search behavior, which is used to keyword searches.
Maybe I am being naïve, but I don’t think changing peoples’ search behavior will be all that hard. We still think in natural language before deciding what keywords to enter into the box. And some people don’t even bother to pick out keywords, they just type a sentence or question.
I think their biggest problem will be proving that their technology works and is useful. For now I’ve got Powerset filed under the “believe it when I see it” category. And assuming they really can do natural language search, will it be that useful? The keyword based search we use today works fairly well for general queries. I think natural language search definitely has value, but I don’t think it will replace Google overnight, if ever. There are certain types of queries that are probably better suited to keyword-based search.
And let’s not forget that millions of people (myself included) use Google and other search engines as navigational tools almost as much as information-finding tools. A quick glance at the 2006 year end Google Zeitgeist will show you that – half of the top ten queries were the names of websites.
Google announced today that it has integrated YouTube results into Google Video. This is the beginning of a transition for Google Video from hosting provider to search. Liz over at NewTeeVee wonders if this is necessary:
In thinking about video search, we’ve been concerned that with the huge number of videos coming into and and video streams coming out of YouTube, there would be little need for — well — video search.
I think there’s a huge need for video search. Just because most of the videos are in one place doesn’t make the search good or effective. There’s lots of things Google can do with it’s video search product to make it the destination. I’m thinking about speech and visual recognition to improve accuracy, and other really complex things.
When it acquired YouTube, Google got more than just a video hosting site. It got unfettered access to one of the largest test beds for video search around. That’s a big asset to have when you’re trying to build an excellent search engine.
The Times of London is reporting that Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, is planning to launch a search engine next year in collaboration with Amazon.com. Dubbed Wikiasari, the search engine will allow users to rank web pages in an effort to create more accurate results (via Techmeme):
“Essentially, if you consider one of the basic tasks of a search engine, it is to make a decision: ‘this page is good, this page sucks’,” Mr Wales said. “Computers are notoriously bad at making such judgments, so algorithmic search has to go about it in a roundabout way.
It appears the big selling point of the search engine will be that it harnesses the wisdom of crowds. Google already does this, with PageRank, but in a less direct way. I am not sure if the new idea is going to fly – how many people really want to rank pages when they search? Usually you just want the results immediately. I’d bet most people won’t want to invest an extra few minutes to visit and rank the results.
I really have no idea what Amazon.com has to do with this project, but recall they too have their own search engine, A9.
Read: Times of London
Google released their annual zeitgeist for 2006 recently, and the top searches proved to be quite different than those found on Yahoo’s annual listing. Google’s top ten terms are mostly technology-related, while Yahoo’s are entertainment-related.
Also different were the news searches. Coming in at number four on the top searches for Google News is podcasting! Who knew so many people were interested in learning about what is happening in the podcasting industry!
Here are my favorite podcasting news sites:
I also subscribe to a bunch of search feeds, and news feeds from individual companies too. And every now and then you get some news from more general sites like TechCrunch or Digg. I thought this list would have been longer though. Perhaps there is room in the news space for podcasting?
Read: Google Zeitgeist
Google started testing their radio advertising service, dubbed Google Audio Ads, today. It’s one of the hottest topics in the blogosphere right now. We have known about it for a long time, and it sounds really great (in terms of the technology), but I still don’t get it. Let me explain.
The radio industry won’t want to hear this. Advertising dollars are shifting online faster than analysts anticipated. In fact, advertisers will soon spend as much money on the Internet as they do on the airwaves, according to a newly released eMarketer study.
Google Inc. has started testing a long-awaited radio advertising service…[that] will help sell advertising on more than 700 radio stations in more than 200 U.S. metropolitan markets. Google hopes to eventually sign up more than 5,000 stations, according to documents shown potential advertisers.
I can think of two potential reasons:
- Google wants to ease the transition for traditional advertisers looking to move online.
I don’t know how good an argument this is, given that so many companies are already advertising online. It does make a certain amount of sense though.
- It’s not about radio at all. This is really Google’ first baby step towards rich media advertising on the web.
Obviously, this is the reasoning that I prefer. Bring on audio ads for podcasting!
I suppose another alternative would be that Google feels there is still enough money to be made in radio advertising that it’s worth trying. My gut feeling though is that Google Audio Ads are destined for something far beyond just radio.
You may recall that when Google launched their Checkout service back in June, I posted about how Canadian merchants were left out in the cold. I went back to the site every couple weeks hoping to see that Canada had been added as a valid merchant country, but it never happened. I gave up around late August and haven’t been back to the site since, until today.
John Battelle posted this morning about a promotion Google Checkout is running for the holidays. I figured, what the heck, might as well check. Nope, still only American merchants allowed. Then I stumbled on the page titled: Google Checkout is available to buyers with billing addresses in…
I was shocked that Canada wasn’t on the list. Then I figured that maybe they left countries like Canada and the US off the list because it was assumed that they were valid countries. Nope. As you can see, the US as well as The United Kingdom are both on the list. The Vatican, Kazakhstan, and Namibia all made the list, yet Canada didn’t.
Either they screwed up and forgot to put Canada on that page, or they screwed up because they don’t allow Canadians to use the service. Unacceptable either way.
UPDATE (12/8/2006): I just checked the page again, and Canada now appears on the list. I wonder if my post had anything to do with it?
Read: Google Checkout
As much as I enjoy reading about how Microsoft plans to defeat Google and how Google has trumped Yahoo and started on their way to ruling the world, it always gives me a good feeling when I read about the three giants working together. Sitemaps are the latest technology that Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo have come together to support:
The goal of this effort is to improve search results for customers around the world. This protocol enables site owners everywhere to tell search engines about the content on their site instead of having to rely solely on crawl algorithms to find it.
Interested in the gritty details? Read more about the Sitemaps protocol at the official website: http://www.sitemaps.org.
As I understand it, Sitemaps do not replace they very common crawling algorithms, but instead augment that data and help improve the crawlers. Seems like something that should have been developed a long time ago! It’s amazing what can happen when you work together isn’t it?
Oh, and the coolest part of all – Sitemap 0.90 has been released under a Creative Commons license.
Read: Live Search Blog
Google made an interesting post to their official blog yesterday, titled Do you “Google?” which aside from being extremely calculated and condescending, slightly mocks Yahoo (you know, do you Yahoo?). The post explains that you can’t use “google” and “search” interchangeably, because they don’t want to become genericized like so many other names have (elevator, zipper, etc).
Needless to say, the post sucks. I can’t say it any better than Ben Metcalfe:
But in the end, regardless of whether it’s positive, harmful or somewhat in between for Google, I for one don’t like to be told how to use the English language.
We own our language. So Google, you can go shove your lexicographical ‘advice’ up your ass.
Seriously, go read Ben’s entire post. He does an awesome job of deconstructing the Google post. The Yahoo search team have posted their own comments too.
I understand the need to try and protect your trademarks and other intellectual property, but I am not sure going after the public like this is a good idea. Google should stick to going after organizations and publications which abuse their trademarks. You need to prove that you’ve made every effort to protect your trademark, but going after individuals is never a good idea. Just ask the RIAA.
If “google” turns out to be a generic term in the end, so be it.
Read: Ben Metcalfe