Google Page Creator

Google has launched its latest service: Google Page Creator. The concept is a good one, breaking free of blogging constraints and creating a browser-based WYSIWYG HTML editor. By signing in with your Gmail account, you can create web pages in your browser which will be hosted at <gmailname> 

I'd post more information, but the service gave me an error message when I attempted to agree to the TOS. Once the service is working correctly (is anything Google makes ever out of Beta, other than News?) I'll be taking it for an in-depth test drive.

Posted on February 23, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Yahoo! Answers Beta

Yahoo has an interesting service in Beta right now. Basically, you can Ask any question, Answer any question that's been asked, and then browse their library of questions and answers. It's a format I've seen before several times, specifically in the field of code libraries- post a coding question and have people submit answers, sometimes for a small monetary transaction. In the case of Yahoo! Answers, there doesn't appear to be any money changing hands, so there are some pretty wacky questions coming up in the Browse section.

Check it out: Yahoo! Answers

Posted on February 21, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

MSN ContentAds - JenSense Scoops New MSN Ad Publisher Network

JenSense, an authority in search engine marketing, scooped this one: MSN is going to launch a PPC publishing network. Through astute reading of the program for Microsoft's upcoming Mix06 event, she discovered that there will be an event in which the MSN ContentAds program is unveiled. Mix06 looks pretty appealing, being a supposed 72-hour (I wouldn't doubt that there will be a lot of caffeine consumed at such an event!) involving the web, operating systems, and more. In short, a MS-sponsored tech gab fest.

We don't have any details yet on what this ad program will be like, but I certainly hope that it will be differentiated from Google AdSense and Yahoo! Publisher Network. If it's any good at all, even a little, I expect to see most of the pro bloggers at least check it out for purposes of income diversification.

This will be one to watch- although some say it's late to the party, I have a feeling that MS is intentionally being fashionably late, waiting for the party to get going before even showing up. Perhaps the party hasn't even started yet. Competition is a good thing!

Posted on February 17, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Search Roundup: Google As Entertainment Portal, and Alexa Web Services

A few sites are picking up the buzz that Google can now break out information in the music and movies space in their search results pages. You can search for "David Byrne", for instance, and above the web site listings will be broken out some additional information. Drill down, and see an album listing, with links to several online retailers including iTunes Music Store!  Very cool... hey, what if I drill down even further?  Wait a minute- links to lyrics sites? In light of Google's conflict with the publishing industry, this might not go over too well with music publishers, who are constantly trying to get lyrics web sites removed from the Internet.

Search for a movie, like Syriana, and you will be presented with local movie theatres and show times.

With Google being the search giant that it is, trying to become more like Yahoo! indicates that they are falling into the "me too" pattern. Can their huge valuation continue like it has?

Perhaps Niche players can take another shot here as well. Alexa, owned by Amazon, is opening up their entire search database via Amazon web services! Widely hailed as a game-changing move, I see this headed in one of two directions. One, that it might continue down the road of the other search API's- more and more useless after an initial period of cool applications being launched.

The more likely direction is that innovation will sprouting up and, due to the pricing model, Alexa continues to offer the services. Even computing time is being sold! The Alexa database could be mined in ways only limited by the imagination of whomever can pay to use it, and the rates seem reasonable enough that someone with a bit of capital could set up something very interesting. Since the Amazon Web Services platform has quite a bit of open code floating out there as examples of how to use it, I expect to see some very slick apps being developed on this platform. Social apps far beyond what I've suggested previously could emerge.

Posted on December 15, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

It's True: Yahoo Acquires

As first reported by TechCrunch and now echoing throughout the web, Yahoo! has purchases, the leader in social bookmarking. There's no word on how this will integrate with Yahoo's other services, but done right, it could be huge.

Yahoo has already purchased photo tagging site Flickr, and unveiled its own tagging platform MyWeb 2.0. With Amazon getting in on tagging, the momentum seems to be increasing in this area. While search technology is (hopefully) getting better at semantic analysis, these tagging sites may provide additional insight into words, meanings, and the sites that we browse.

I think of a "tag" as a semi-reliable label on an arbitratry grouping of objects. Semi-reliable because anyone can tag anything with any word they like, which introduces noise to the system. However, humans do noise filtering and disambiguation all the time using their brains and it seems inevitable that we will be modeling that activity to some extent, improving the search and retrieval of information. While systems today seem to make good suggestions, the addition of more and more layers of context might continue to improve the user experience and the value we get.

Could machines become intuitive? One of the most intuitive things we humans do is use language. We draw understandings and make new creations without knowing how we do it at the time; it's a fully intuitive process that occurs below conscious awareness. Can we model this process in such a way as to create analogs in information systems? If so, we have a growing corpus of text, and relationships between texts through hyperlinking and tagging.

While many think of Google as building the ultimate information system, we would be foolish to overlook Yahoo, quietly building an aresnal of highly-addictive social internet tools bound to tap into the intelligence of group activity which may emerge if the right mix of constraints and freedoms is implemented.

Posted on December 9, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Yahoo Search Scraping Pages

Yahoo! has some interesting search technology that you don't hear other engines talking about. In the Yahoo! Search Blog, it's revealed that they not only analyze pages for ranking, but for useful units of information on the page. Essentially, for certain pages they will scrape identifiable content like a business address and list it out in their results:

"...a new feature in our abstract generating algorithm that tries to guess the  most used information about that page, and promotes it into the summaries for search results. Not only do we try to figure out the most used information on the page, but we also integrate relevant features from other parts of Yahoo!."

Posted on October 1, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Google Removes Index Size Bragging from Site

Google seems to have declared that size doesn't matter in the latest development in their continual jockeying for top index size position with rival Yahoo!

Quoting Google's Marissa Mayer, the Yahoo! News article reports:
"Mayer said that since apples-to-apples comparison are no longer possible, Google decided to stop listing the size of its index and instead invite Web surfers to conduct the equivalent of a "taste test" to see which engine consistently delivers the most results, Mayer said."

Google initially launched a debate with Yahoo! over whose index was the larger after Yahoo! disclosed that their index had topped 20.8 billion documents. Now that it appears they can't compete on size, they will have to reframe the argument to be about how they use it.


Posted on September 27, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Interesting Use of Market Forecasting in Google

Tyler Cowen writes about Google's internal use of market forecasting to create a predictive tool for launch dates and other decisions. Market forecasting uses competitive bidding to determine the likelihood that an event will occur, and on a specific date.

Says Google: "We designed the market so that the price of an event should, in theory, reflect a consensus probability that the event will occur. To determine accuracy of the market, we looked at the connection between prices of events and the frequency with which they actually occurred. If prices are correct, events priced at 10 cents should occur about 10 percent of the time."

Market tools like this have been getting some attention in the media lately as they continue to be applied in new and interesting ways. It's an intriguing model to say the least, though I'm not sure if there are limits to their accuracy when, as in the Google case, no actual money is at stake on the part of the bidders themselves.

Posted on September 22, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Inline related searches being tested at Google?

First brought to my attention by Mike Levin, who's quoted in this Clickz article is what appears to be some results page experimentation by Google.  My analysis of this phenomenon, based on the article's own "on demand" example, is that Google appears to have employed clustering technology of the type that Teoma uses.  The key difference though, and it's a big difference, is that Google isn't clustering related searches off to the side under a drilldown link.  Instead, Google is inlining the top three results from the related search "comcast on demand" in positions 6,7, and 8 of the results for "on demand".

Google already suggests search revisions at the top of the page if their engine thinks you've misspelled a word. 

Further evidence that "related search" technology is being used here was found when I went over to Google Suggest and entered "on demand".  One of the suggested searches was "on deman comcast" which yields the same top three results.

The Clickz article alludes to some kind of results QA going on.  That's pretty  wide open to interpretation- are they looking at the quality of the results for "on demand", or are they doing QA on this phenomenon as a standard feature of Google?

The click tracking of those three URLs is interesting as well but I'm scratching my head over their methodology.  The clickthrough URLs contain a parameter "oi=revisions_inline" implying that this is meant to suggest revised searches.  But the use of the horizontal rules to set apart these results visually may draw the users' eyes, and artificially inflate clickthrough with the result of distorting their QA results.

It will be interesting to see where Google's going with this. Are they inlining query revisions in order to learn how to figure out what users really mean when they enter a given query?  Are they simply testing an inline version of clustered topics ( if that's the case than clustering is no longer an appropriate term) to enhance their user interface? I'll keep an eye on where this discussion goes and will post updates as more information emerges.

Posted on August 19, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack