October 27, 2008

My Latest Project: Local Search Canada

In case you’ve been wondering what I’ve been working on, it’s a Canadian local search company called weblocal.ca.

It is based on the YellowBot platform and I’m really excited about it’s launch. There is a contest there so make sure to go an enter the contest and review locations!

In any case, I’ll be traveling this week to Montreal. If you think you’d like to meet up or there is some sort of tech/startup meetup, make sure to let me know!

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February 1, 2008

Microsoft Makes $44.6 Billion Bid for Yahoo

Amid all the recent Yahoo problems, Microsoft has stepped in and made a $44.6 Billion bid for a Yahoo takeover (that’s $31 per share).

This was revealed in a letter from Steve Ballmer to Yahoo’s Board. Valleywag claims to have a copy of the letter:

I am writing on behalf of the Board of Directors of Microsoft to make a proposal for a business combination of Microsoft and Yahoo!. Under our proposal, Microsoft would acquire all of the outstanding shares of Yahoo! common stock for per share consideration of $31 based on Microsoft’s closing share price on January 31, 2008, payable in the form of $31 in cash or 0.9509 of a share of Microsoft common stock.

Our proposal represents a 62% premium above the closing price

In February 2007, I received a letter from your Chairman indicating the view of the Yahoo! Board that “now is not the right time from the perspective of our shareholders to enter into discussions regarding an acquisition transaction.”

Today, the market is increasingly dominated by one player who is consolidating its dominance through acquisition. Together, Microsoft and Yahoo! can offer a credible alternative for consumers, advertisers, and publishers. Synergies of this combination fall into four areas…
– Scale economics…
– Expanded R&D capacity…
– Operational efficiencies…
– Emerging user experiences…

Our proposal is subject to the negotiation of a definitive merger agreement and our having the opportunity to conduct certain limited and confirmatory due diligence.

Google is doing such a job at dominating the search market that even after Yahoo and Microsoft combine their marketshares, here is what it looks like according to Erick Schonfeld at Techcrunch:

MSFT/YHOO: 32.7%
GOOG: 58.4%

The $31 per share bid has already driven YHOO stock up to nearly $30 per share this morning (previous day’s close was $19.18).

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January 8, 2008

FAST Aqcuired by Microsoft

Microsoft made a $1.2 Billion bid to aqcuire Fast Search & Transfer.

FAST provides search technology to many sites you may be unaware of. Some of the local search sites that use it, for example, include Citysearch and YellowPages.com.

Microsoft says:

In addition to bolstering Microsoft’s enterprise search efforts, this acquisition increases Microsoft’s research and development presence in Europe

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January 1, 2008

WhatsOpen Launches

So it seems WhatsOpen has finally launched.

It’s a site where users can search for what’s open. Type in your location and what you’re looking for (i.e. a coffee shop) and get search results of what’s currently open.

It’s a perfect fit for a mobile application.

Adena Schutzberg notes the following:

The writer at Local Tech Wire (WRAL - Raleigh/Durham, NC) notes it looks pretty good for his known orbit of coffee shops, but points out his favorite mexican places don’t show up in searches for burritos. I searched for “coffee” in “modesto” and learned about the Coffee Family Dental. Also annoying: hours do not seem to be day of the week dependent. I bet that dentist’s office is not open on Sunday, for example.

The site shows hours on the left without any mention of the day of the week. It’s entirely possible that they do factor day of the week in but only display the hours for “today” in order to save space in their UI. However, when I searched for coffee shops near my house, I got results for what appears to be all coffee shops in my area. I searched at 8:30 am and got business that weren’t opening until 10am or later (according to their left nav results).

I love the concept for mobile devices. As a matter of fact, we have been working on this for a while now at YellowBot. We’re currently building and testing internally but we have exposed part of it for more user feedback. You can go to the iPhone YellowBot site and start checking results where, next to the hours, you’ll be told if the business is opened, closed, opening soon, etc…and, it is day of the week dependent.

We’ll be releasing the “search by what is currently open” functionality shortly (and are debating whether to default to this behavior on mobile devices) hopefully soon if we don’t reprioritize based on upcoming projects.

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November 27, 2007

ILM 2007

I’ll be seeing some of the regular readers of this blog at The Kelsey Group’s Interactive Local Media 2007 conference, which, for the first year, will be 1) in association with Search Engine Strategies Local and 2) in Los Angeles.

I’ll be a speaker on the Convergence of Local Media and Directories panel.

If you’re going, send me an email so we can meet up! :-)

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October 3, 2007

The Future of Maps: 3D Immersion

Techcrunch points out Earthmine, a sort of Google Streetview but with tagging, higher resolution photos, and more details.

[I]magine you’re a restaurant owner who wants to entice potential customers by tagging the outside of your diner within a 3D panorama with menu information and digital coupons.

What this all means is that Earthmine’s system can keep track of the objects found in the real world and attribute information to each of them (a process known as “asset mapping?).

There seems to be a growing number of companies in this arena. I’ve emailed/talked briefly with Danny Moon of UpNext, Jeff Brandes of Everyscape, and others. I really like what these sites are doing and what they are planning to do. More to come when I can talk about it some more. ;-)

The interface definitely has a coolness factor. However, finding the information you are looking for still needs some work. I imagine some sort of combination between traditional local search and these 3D immersive technologies may lead to a useful product…so it was no suprise to me when Google came out with their Street View product (and what also fuels the speculation that they could build a Second Life competitor). Blending online and offline will lead to a better product. Whether you sue this immersive map, mobile phones with GPS integrated with maps, or even QR Codes that you can take a picture of with your mobile phone and be automatically taken to an appropriate website, menu (if it is a restaurant), or map (for example).

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October 2, 2007

Yahoo Adds Local OneBox

Yahoo has announced that they have added and improved their one box (a “box” at the top with some quick answers to search queries):

Whatever it is you want to do: research a topic, find a website, plan a vacation, research a medical condition, view a funny video, or any of the other billions of queries we get from users — their intents expressed via a few keywords in a search box.

Search Engine Journal notes that this has been applied to Local results but seems to be heavily weighted towards hotels & restaurants which are often the top categories searched for (and reviewed, and …).

The most influential and useful Yahoo Shortcuts seem to revolve around the travel and hospitality industries in terms of Hotels and Restaurants. These Shortcuts emphasize the user generated content, the true power of the Yahoo Network’s Local Search, in user reviews and ratings.

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Google Ends Immersive Media Relationship and Talks of Future

Immersive Media announced that their deal with Google for StreetView has terminated. Once can only speculate on who terminated and why or why Google decided not to acquire them. Google has had their fleet of StreetView cars spotted on their lot and IM says they’ve sent them out. They’ve been doing their own collecting while simultaneously using IM for a while now.

Why would Google build its own fleet to begin with? The press release mentions that their content licensing deal has ended. If Google was licensing the technology, they could own the content but the press release indicates they are licensing the content so IM would own those photos. Could this mean that the licensing terms were too restrictive? When I was a SES in San Jose this year, I went to the Google Dance on the Google Campus and the engineer working on the StreetView project (he was in charge of the pictures, not the programming) said they were planning to bring those photos into the API so people could use them for their mashups. I already have noticed that a lot of features and data that exist on their site are not in the API because of other licensing issues. Could this have been one of the issues? Or is it that Google wanted to ramp up quickly and do this in such a large volume that IM could not handle that sort of demand in a short period of time…so Google would build its own fleet and, once completed and large enough, they would not need IM anymore? Well, we won’t know for sure until someone says more.

Meanwhile, at SMX Local & Mobile, Michael Jones, Chief Technologist for Google Earth, Google Maps, and Google Local gave a keynote where he speaks a bit about the future direction of their products and the industry. Some take-aways include:

  • Google strives to be a local searcher’s concierge (as in a concierge that helps you at a hotel or elsewhere)
  • Theirs other data out there that must be mapped into local (the ones he mentions such as traffic, reviews, etc are no-brainers and they’re already happening…what is up Google’s sleeve??) and using all that info to “geographically organize the world’s information”
  • Google knows they have a lot of work to do to improve their product
  • Crowdsourcing is a way to collect info and improve data (perhaps a way to internalize the risk of external contracts)
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May 29, 2007

Google People Search

Google has added a feature that allows you to constrain your image search by face.

This feature allows you to search for people by searching for their names and constraining on imgtype=face

Now that Google can identify a picture is of a face, will they do something with facial recognition?

The results aren’t perfect and use names on a page to try to associate a picture with those names. For example, my cousin (who I’ll keep anonymous) works for a law firm so you can find his name on the firm’s website. However, instead of showing his picture, you can see a picture of a partner with the firm. Clicking through on the page shows a page with this partners picture as the only picture on the page along with a number of names, including my cousin’s. There are also pictures in the search results of various University of Pennsylvania professors who have their pictures (along with multiple other pictures) on the same page as my cousin’s name. It seems as if all pictures identified as a “face” on that single page ended up matching his name.

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May 23, 2007

Technorati’s Product Shift

Former blog-search Technorati has chifted their product (and possibly their business model in the process). They are no longer simply a blog search…their homepage includes video, pictures, and more.

Technorati’s CEO, Dave Sifry, posted about the change:

Whereas folks using Technorati a couple of years ago were predominantly coming to us to search the blogosphere to surface the conversations that were most interesting to them, today they are increasingly coming to our site to get the 360 degree context of the Live Web - blogs of course, but also user-generated video, photos, podcasts, music, games and more. They want all the good stuff out there, all in real-time, and we’re using the power of 80 million bloggers to help organize it and make it fun to browse; using the wisdom of crowds as a mirror on ourselves. Have a look at the new homepage

They’ve also streamlined their UI to KISS by removing unnecessary links and not distinguishing between different search types.

Mike is correct, in my opinion, when he states:

This is also a clear move by Technorati away from blog search, although many of the media search features have been around for a while. It may be an acknowledgment that they can’t beat Google Blogsearch over the long run, or it may be a strategy to go after a larger potential market for time sensitive content. Or both.

My opinion is that blogsearch is getting crowded thanks to Google so Technorati will leverage its high pagerank and all those links to /tag/something to push more of their new pages into Google’s index to get more traffic. They can choose to stay with blog search where they ahd the lion’s share of the pie and have slowly been losing that marketshare…or they can own a smaller share of a larger pie by expanding.

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