Time for Google Headlines!

Post ImageHave you ever used a news aggregator like Google News? My guess is that you have, at least once. While these aggregators drive traffic to newspapers, magazines, and other content websites, they also cause problems with the headlines authors choose for a particular story:

Journalist over the years have assumed they were writing their headlines and articles for two audiences–fickle readers and nitpicking editors. Today, there is a third important arbiter of their work: the software programs that scour the Web, analyzing and ranking online news articles on behalf of Internet search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN.

“The search engine has to get a straightforward, factual headline, so it can understand it,” Nic Newman, head of product development and technology at BBC News Interactive, said.

Seems that these headline aggregators don’t like wit or humor. Is that a problem with the current crop of readers? Yes. Is it something that presents an opportunity? Again, yes. All you have to do, news media people, is ask for it:

“Google, oh great one…with your vast resources and large repositories of data, surely you can present to us an algorithm that is able to craft funny headlines, complete with all the inside jokes your spiders can discover…bestow upon us mere mortals such an algorithm, and call it Google Headlines (beta, naturally)…and we shall be forever grateful.”

They can’t deny a request like that! Or can they?

Read: CNET News.com

What's up with Google?

Post ImageI just went to Google to search for something (an activity we all do dozens of times each day) and the first thing I noticed was that something had changed. I wasn’t immediately sure what it was, so I did another search. I see now what is different.

They changed the interface, and I don’t like it. In searches that don’t have ads associated with them, for “mastermaq” say, the results page is even more sparse than in the past. The familiar Google graphic for going from page 1 to page 2 and so on is now gone, leaving only text. In searches with ads however, they no longer appear on the side, but in a huge box at the top and another box at the bottom. I am also noticing that the number of results being returned is very small, and the processing time for each search is taking longer than normal (though still really quick).

Anyone know what’s going on? Is this an experiment or something? I only took a cursory glance at the feeds I subscribe to, but I haven’t been able to find anything yet.

[Just in case this is an experiment that only reaches limited numbers of users, here’s a screenshot.]

Read: Google

Google buys Writely

Post ImageI didn’t see this one coming, but it seems Google has purchased Writely, a web-based word processing app. I guess the deal isn’t that surprising given that there has always been speculation Google would build an online competitor to Microsoft Office.

“We haven’t yet figured out all the details,” Writely said on its site. “Coming to Google will eventually give us a leg up on getting things done that we just haven’t been able to with our tiny team.”

A Google representative confirmed the deal in an e-mail. “We acquired Writely for the innovative technology and talented team,” Google said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to have them here.” The purchase price was not disclosed.

I think Google probably purchased them more for the team than the technology. Personally, I don’t think using a word processor online would be a great experience, but I suppose if they can make it work there’ll be a market. Writely has received lots of positive attention thus far, so that’s a bonus for Google.

Read: CNET News.com

Google GDrive

Post ImageIf a company provided the ability to store all of your data online, would you use it? Would you choose to allow your computer to be essentially just a local cache of your data stored elsewhere? Google thinks you might:

Google is preparing to offer online storage to Web users, creating a mirror image of data stored on consumer hard drives, according to company documents that were mistakenly released on the Web.

“With infinite storage, we can house all user files, including emails, web history, pictures, bookmarks, etc and make it accessible from anywhere (any device, any platform, etc),” the notes in the original Google presentation state.

Chief Executive Eric Schmidt in his presentation made a cryptic comment that one goal of Google was to “store 100 percent” of consumer information.

Personally, I don’t think I’d use such a service, at least not for all of my data. Maybe an array of services, from different companies, in different locations, so that the potential for abuse or data loss is reduced. I realize I make that statement in 2006, when in five years things may be very different and it would seem natural to store things primarily online. I still can’t quite fathom everyone using only one service though.

Read: CNET News.com

Gmail Chat

Post ImageFor years Hotmail and Yahoo Mail have showed the connection status of your Messenger buddies in the web mail interface. A simple icon depicts whether they are online or not, and a simple click can launch a chat window or do other things. Google has taken that idea one step further, enabling conversations to take place inside the browser itself:

Google on Monday was set to launch Gmail Chat, which will let users send instant messages with one click from their e-mail account, see when contacts are online and save the chat history like an e-mail message.

The application’s Quick Contacts list is synchronized with a user’s Google Talk friends list and automatically displays the people a user communicates with most frequently and shows their online status. Clicking on a contact listed as being online opens a chat window in the browsers.

I think this new Chat feature will be played up as “Google innovating in the email space yet again” when really, it’s a poor man’s version of MSN’s Web Messenger. I mean, when you cut through the crap (read: beta label) that’s all it is! And even then, a web messenger is really only useful if you’re on a public computer or something.

Considering I don’t use Google Talk, this new feature is pretty much useless for me.

Read: CNET News.com

What the hell Yahoo?

Post ImageOne interesting item floating around the blogosphere today is that Yahoo has decided to give up in the search industry, essentially conceding defeat to Google. Yes, you read that correctly – sickening isn’t it?

“We don’t think it’s reasonable to assume we’re going to gain a lot of share from Google,” Chief Financial Officer Susan Decker said in an interview. “It’s not our goal to be No. 1 in Internet search. We would be very happy to maintain our market share.”

I think it’s incredibly sad and disappointing that they have made such a decision. And I really have to disagree with Henry Blodget:

Yahoo! has finally read the writing on the wall that everyone else (except Microsoft) has been reading for three years: The search game is over and Google has won.

If there is anything Google has taught us, it’s that search is important! While Yahoo and Excite and everyone was ignoring search, Google improved it, and look where they are now (definitely read John Battelle’s book The Search, it covers this in great detail). Search is not even close to perfect – there is so much left to be done! I think it’s a mistake to give up, and I don’t think there’s any “writing on the wall” either.

Thank goodness we have Microsoft! Instead of giving up, they’ve decided to pour oodles of money into search to try and improve the experience far beyond Google. Of course we won’t know how successful they are for a while, but that’s not the point. The point is that they did not give up, they continue to try and innovate, and in the end, it will result in better search for all of us (as Google is forced to further innovate as well).

Yahoo was looking really good lately, with their string of strategic “Web 2.0” acquisitions, then they go and make a statement like this. I’m kind of baffled, really. Certainly Yahoo’s business is not entirely search, but if they don’t think that search is and will continue to be a big part of their business, even indirectly, then I think they’re making a big mistake.

Read: seattlepi.com

Google News goes gold

Post ImageAs John Battelle and others have noted, Google News is now officially out of beta. I guess it’s not the most important news item of the day, but it’s not often you see a product that has no way to make money and has been in “beta testing” for over four years “go gold”. From the creator of Google News, Krishna Bharat:

Google News has matured a great deal, and we’re proud to see it graduate from its beta status. Much remains to be done, and as always, we have many exciting ideas that we intend to take forward. Meanwhile, as the saying goes, if you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own. Or just keep reading Google News.

As Larry noted, there doesn’t seem to be much new with the service, aside from integrating search history. Has anyone starting betting on which product will move out of beta next? If not, we should! I’d put my money on Froogle.

Read: Google Blog

Henry Blodget on Google

The infamous Henry Blodget took up blogging last year, and regardless of your opinions about him or your memories of the dotcom bubble and subsequent bust, he has some interesting thoughts. His latest focus on Google, which has been enjoying quite a steady ride north on the stock market lately. Here’s what Mr. Blodget has to say:

No one else is writing this piece, so it will have to be me. I should say upfront that I’m not predicting that this will happen (yet), and I’m certainly not making a recommendation. I’m just laying out a scenario that could kick Google in the kneecaps and take its stock back to, say, $100 a share.

Google’s major weakness is that it is almost entirely dependent on one, high-margin revenue stream. The company has dozens of cool products, but with the exception of AdWords, none of them generate meaningful revenue. From an intermediate-term financial perspective, therefore, they are irrelevant.

So, the question is, what could happen to AdWords, and what will happen to the company (and stock) if it does?

It’s a very interesting read, definitely worth it. One of the bigger problems he mentions is click fraud, but Google’s rapidly growing fixed costs are also a big factor. And he nails the biggest problem of all – they need some other revenue generating products! You can’t run a sustainable business when you only release beta products (I recently posted about betas on the Paramagnus Blog).

I know it’s silly to compare Google with Microsoft and Yahoo and any other company, but if Google “loses”, it will be because the other companies all have numerous revenue streams.

Read: Internet Outsider

2005 Google Zeitgeist

Post ImageTis the season for year end lists and reflection on the year 2005. Darren has a pretty good collection of lists, but I particularly like Google’s Zeitgeist. Here’s what it’s all about:

It turns out that looking at the aggregation of billions of search queries people type into Google reveals something about our curiosity, our thirst for news, and perhaps even our desires. Considering all that has occurred in 2005, we thought it would be interesting to study just a few of the significant events, and names that make this a memorable year. (We’ll leave it to the historians to determine which ones are lasting and which ephemeral.) We hope you enjoy this selective view of our collective year.

This year’s zeitgeist appears to be much better organized than in previous years. Britney Spears was popular once again, while “weapons of mass destruction” fell quite drastically. Podcasting still lags behind both ipod and mp3, and judging by the graph Google provides, it doesn’t appear to be growing very fast either. Looks like 2006 has lots of room for improvement!

Read: Google Zeitgeist

Google Music Search

Post ImageGoogle launched a new music search service today, very cleverly called Google Music. From the Google Blog:

A few of us decided to try to make the information you get for these searches even better, so we created a music search feature. Now you can search for a popular artist name, like the Beatles or the Pixies, and often Google will show some information about that artist, like cover art, reviews, and links to stores where you can download the track or buy a CD via a link at the top of your web search results page.

I just gave it a quick try, and I rather like it! I have long wanted to find a service like IMDB but for music, and I have never come across it. Google Music is most definitely not that service, but it is a step in the right direction. Usually I end up trying to find track listings for albums, and unfortunately Amazon doesn’t always have the track listing. I’ll have to play with Google Music a little more to see if it is any more reliable.

I really like that Google Music will show lyrics for a song, other versions of the song, and the authors too (whoever wrote the song). You can also buy songs directly, currently there are links to iTunes and Real Rhapsody. Would be cool to have a “similar artists” feature or even just “similar albums” so you could discover new music using the search too.

Read: Google Music Search