Ben Metcalfe rips apart Google

Post ImageGoogle 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

The switch to Live Search is on

Post ImageRobert Scoble posted today that he thinks Microsoft’s Live Search has really improved and has closed the gap with Google. Despite that, he doesn’t think anyone is going to switch away from Google. He says he won’t because of the trust he’s built over the years using Google. I think he’ll revisit that strategy at some point.

Over the last couple weeks, I have been using both Google and Live Search. More and more frequently, I have found that the Live Search results are better than Google’s search results. Most of the time they are almost identical. This is really important. The quality of results has to be on par with Google before people will consider switching. Now that the quality is there, here are the main reasons I am switching:

  1. Switching is easy – there’s really nothing keeping you at Google except habit.
  2. Live.com is shorter than Google.com – sounds dumb, but it makes a difference! I’ve never been a big user of the search boxes in the browser.
  3. Live Search looks so much nicer than Google! Both are simple, but the extra color that Live Search does have makes it look better.
  4. The speed difference is no longer noticable. The main thing I liked about Google was its speed. Live Search is just as fast now though.

I am not saying Live Search is perfect, but neither is Google. Both have their quirks and both have room for improvement. For example, Google’s results seem to be extremely out of date at times, but their image search is far better than Live.com’s. Both Google and Live suck at feed searches – Ask seems to have the lead there.

I think most people will agree with Robert on the trust thing though. When I first started using both engines, I would always do a search with Live Search first, and then do the search in Google. The reason was basically to make sure Live Search wasn’t giving me crap. I trusted Google more. I probably still trust Google more, simply because I’ve been using it for so long. But that doesn’t mean I am not willing to give Live Search a chance.

Are you going to switch?

Read: Robert Scoble

So much for stealth mode!

Post ImageI think it’s funny when companies say they are operating in stealth mode, because it is really hard to do. Before this morning I had never heard of Powerset, so I guess they were in stealth mode, but the cat is out of the bag now. Here’s what they say about themselves:

Powerset is leading the next generation of internet search. Powerset is a Silicon Valley startup currently operating in stealth mode. Please check back in the near future for more information about the company and its products.

There are so many blogs covering this company today, it’s ridiculous (and I guess I’m included in that now too). Most of the coverage contains things like “so much better than Google” or similar comments. Is that really such a good idea? I wonder if the company is happy about all the attention or not. They say there’s no such thing as bad press, but when you are getting setup like that? It’s going to be hard to meet expectations.

Read: Powerset

Comparing Windows Live Search and Google

Post ImageAfter less than a year in beta, Microsoft is set to release the final version of Windows Live Search tonight (actually it’s no longer marked beta for me). The search engine will now power MSN Search too. With this in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to compare Live Search and Google (currently my default search engine). How does it stack up? Could it possibly be my new default search engine? Let’s find out.

First off, please note I am focusing only on the basic search functionality – load up the site, type something in the box, and press enter. Both Live Search and Google have a bunch of other options (and Live Search’s macros and other things are especially neat) but right now I am just interested in the search results I get. I will say however that I really like the look of Live Search. And that it loads just as fast as Google does.

1. hello world
First search is for what else but hello world (Live, Google)! This is a hard one. While the results are similar, I like Google’s better. Why? The top result is for a .edu site, talking about “hello world” program examples. The second result is for the Wikipedia entry on “hello world” programs. Live on the other hand, returns HelloWorld.com (which appears to be a streaming video site) for the top two results. Google has this one too, but at #3.
# of identical results in top 10: 5
winner: Google

2. mastermaq
Next up is a little vanity search, for mastermaq (Live, Google). I keep track of this search at Google fairly often, and it usually alternates between some Brazilian company and my blog as #1 (oddly enough my blog is down at #6 today). There’s a clear winner here, and it’s Live Search. Why? Well because all of the results but two are created by me. Google lists my profiles at other sites far higher than it does my own sites. Something created by me is far more important don’t you think?
# of identical results in top 10: 4
winner: Live

3. podcast spot
How about a search for Podcast Spot, since we’ll be releasing it soon enough (Live, Google). So these results suck on both sites, but that’s probably because you can’t actually get to Podcast Spot right now without a password. Despite that, Google delivers much better results. I don’t know how the first two results in Live even matched (some random color video and an article on GM podcasting). Google is at least smart enough to put our login page at #1. The category for Podcast Spot at the Paramagnus blog is #3 on both sites.
# of identical results in top 10: 2
winner: Google

4. britney spears
She used to be one of the most frequently searched for celebrities (Live, Google). The results start out almost identical on both sites, then Google goes downhill. “The Mystery of Britney’s Breats”, some crappy fan sites, and a Google page at #10 pretty give Live the win. With the exception of only the #9 result, everything Live returns is appropriate.
# of identical results in top 10: 6
winner: Live

And now for a tie-break!

5. ventureprize
Let’s see what turns up for the business plan competiton we competed in this year (Live, Google). What a terrible query for the tie-break! Anyway, it seems that Live is really showing Paramagnus the love, with five of the top ten results from sites belonging to us (I include my Flickr page here). Google seems to prefer the University of Alberta and City of Edmonton sites. While I love being higher in the search engines, I have to give this one to Google, for having the most relevant first result.
# of identical results in top 10: 4
winner: Google

So there you go, a very unscientific comparison of Google and Live. I am impressed enough by Windows Live that I’m going to try and use it for a week or so, to see if I feel anything is missing. The thought of not using Google does seem strange though! I am really happy with the speed of Live, because one of the main reasons I started using Google was that it is damn fast. The Live Search team was wise not to ignore this.

What has your experience been with these two search engines?

Internet Discovery

Post ImageSome say I spend too much time on the computer, but I say bah! Some say I spend too much time on the Internet, but again, I say bah! Why do I say bah? Because I know there’s still hope for us geeks, as demonstrated by Rory Blyth (who works for Microsoft):

[Google.] I owe you in a very big way. There are six billion people in the world, approximately five zillion web pages cataloged in your little magnetic platters, and you somehow managed against the odds to deliver a highly intelligent (major: aviation science / minor: journalism/creative writing), dynamic, gorgeous human being to my doorstep. I’m willing to pretend for a few minutes like our two companies aren’t out for each other’s jugulars with piano wire.

Seriously, it’s a great story, you should go read the whole thing. Rory is an excellent writer too.

So what kind of hope does he give us? Well, not necessarily that what happened to him will happen to the rest of us (although that would be cool, the girl is gorgeous!), but hope that there lies within the Internet a great potential, still waiting to be discovered.

Yahoo hearts PayPal

Post ImageIn a deal announced earlier today, Yahoo and eBay are teaming up around advertising, e-commerce, and search. Yahoo becomes the exclusive provider of graphical ads on eBay, and will also provide some text ads. They are going to make a co-branded toolbar, and they’ll work to make their respective VoIP apps work together (Yahoo Messenger and Skype). The biggest thing of all though, at least as far as I am concerned, is Yahoo’s adoption of PayPal:

Yahoo will make eBay’s PayPal service the exclusive third-party provider of its online wallet, allowing customers to pay for Yahoo services from bank accounts, credit cards or balances associated with their PayPal accounts. PayPal will also be integrated into product offerings for Yahoo merchants and publishers, including the Yahoo Publisher Network, Yahoo Search Marketing and Yahoo Merchant Solutions.

Yahoo using PayPal essentially removes any doubt that PayPal is the de facto payment service on the Internet. It will be very hard for Google to successfully introduce a competitor now. Two of the largest sites on the net in Yahoo and eBay, plus the millions of other smaller e-commerce sites all using PayPal is an enormous hurdle for any rival payment service. PayPal is the closest thing we have to a truly digital wallet. Incredibly smart move by Yahoo, and excellent outcome for eBay.

Read: CNET News.com

Windows Vista gets thumbs up from DOJ

Post ImageIt turns out that I’m not the only one who though Google’s whining about Internet Explorer 7 was dumb. The Justice Department has reviewed many parts of Windows Vista, including the new search box, and has found no problems:

While criticizing Microsoft for its implementation of its existing antitrust accord, regulators appear satisfied with the software maker’s plans for Windows Vista, including a new search box that is part of Internet Explorer 7.

As part of its status report on Microsoft’s antitrust compliance, the Justice Department said that it had reviewed the search box and concluded that Microsoft’s implementation “respects users’ and (computer makers’) default choices and is easily changed.”

Thank goodness the government has gotten something correct for once! Apparently they have also approved the “first-boot” experience for Windows Vista, after having reached an agreement with Microsoft that gives flexibility to computer makers.

So what does it all mean? Essentially, it means the only thing holding Windows Vista back now is Microsoft itself.

Read: CNET News.com

Grow up Google!

Post ImageSometimes companies do things that just leave you baffled. There’s lots of commentary out there that suggests Google is taking the evil away from Microsoft, and the latest bit of news seems to support that. Apparently Google is not happy with Microsoft’s new browser and the way it features MSN Search:

“The market favors open choice for search, and companies should compete for users based on the quality of their search services,” said Marissa Mayer, the vice president for search products at Google. “We don’t think it’s right for Microsoft to just set the default to MSN. We believe users should choose.”

So now they are lobbying the government, expressing concern about competition in the search business. Are you kidding me? First of all, it’s dead easy to change the default search provider in IE7 to Google (or anything else for that matter). Secondly, are they totally forgetting that they made a deal with Firefox to be the default seach provider (and start page too) in that browser? Or that they pay a lot of Mozilla’s employees? I mean seriously.

If you’re going to complain about something, at least make sure you’re not doing the very thing you’re complaining about. All too often Microsoft’s competitors run to the government. It’s kind of sad, really.

UPDATE: As this post explains, MSN Search is not the default search provider after all!

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

Notes from Sifry on the Blogosphere

Post ImageDave Sifry and Tim Bray are on stage now, getting ready to do their presentation, apparently with no visuals! Sounds like they will be accepting questions from the crowd as well.

  • Kind of a cool interview setup, Dave and Tim sitting on stage.
  • How many people are bloggers? Everyone raises their hand. How many people don’t have a Technorati ego feed? No one raises their hand!

I’m going to try and capture some of the Q and A here but don’t expect exact quotes – I’ll be summarizing essentially.

T: Why do we need blogs?
D: [Explains why he started Technorati.] Mailing lists suck! Started looking around to see if there might be a better way and came across a dynamic web publishing system, a blog. I immediately became a stats whore, I wanted to know what people were saying about me! The problem was fundamentally the way search engines are built – in essence built on the model that the web is the world’s biggest library. Even today we talk about the web as if it were a library – web pages, documents, indexes, etc. What I wanted was the immediacy of conversation. Traditional search engines don’t really understand the concept of time. This doesn’t mean that the web as a library metaphor isn’t a good one. What I realized was, pages are created by people. Authority does not denote veracity! I built Technorati because I wanted to know who was talking about me.

T: What leaps out at you from your state of the blogosphere series?
D: We don’t pretend to say we’re tracking every blog that exists, but we’re working hard to get all of the public ones. Korea for example, we don’t track quite as well. There’s about 27.6 million blogs, and that grows by 75,000 every day (about one new weblog per second). How many blog after three months? Just over 50%, about 13.7 million. About 2.8 million post once a week or more, and just under a million post once a day or more. There are about 15 new posts per second. The blogosphere is incredibly many-to-many. People like Instapundit or BoingBoing are starting to look a lot like the mainstream media, where they get a lot of links and just can’t respond to every comment, etc. It’s the people after these top ones that are much more interesting; their traffic is still manageable enough to carry on a conversation, yet they are still authoritative. The idea behind Technorati’s Blog Finder feature is to try and help these people get discovered.

Audience Member: How can we deal with the fact that the world of tagging is messy and there’s multiple languages, etc?
D: When you setup the system so that it’s easy to do, an emergent system starts to occur. As long as tagging is easy, emergent thinking will occur.
T: I think we can agree that’s the only hope too, no one can create a big dictionary.

T: Blogging is changing so much, what can go wrong?
D: Wow! The growth cannot continue forever, because there’s only so many humans in the world! We’re still very much at the beginning though, and there are some enormous challenges like spam, splogs, spings, etc. As Cory Doctorow said, all healthy ecosystems have parasites! Net neutrality, is one of the most dangerous threats to the net. This is the idea where telecom providers try to do preferrential pricing.

Audience Member: How many spam blogs are being created by robots?
D: About July of 2004 is when they really started to appear, and there’s two kinds; the ones that do SEO type blogs, and those that are scraping content to try and make money. The way to solve this is to get down to the economics of why people do this. And it has to be an ecosystem approach, different companies have to work together.
T: I think it is hitting the long tail less hard than the head of the tail.

T: [Asked something about RSS and advertising I think.]
D: Your RSS aggregator is not “push”…it goes off at some regular interval to pull down information. And they all understand when something is “read” differently.

Audience Member: What about federated networks?
D: It’s a shift in the economics of publishing. We’re starting to see, in effect, a guild system. It comes down to, can you write with quality and can you work effectively with advertisers to make money?

Scoble made a comment about advertising at this point.

D: I think advertising sucks, but imagine you could see ads you actually want to?

Okay I am back to just some notes:

  • Google Bowling – people will create spam sites that point to competitors so that they get kicked out of the index.
  • Tim says he observed bored children in the audience, and reminds everyone of the kids room.