Yahoo: Gone Wrong

April 29, 2009

TechRadar published an interesting article with the magnetic question, “Where Did It All Go Wrong for Yahoo?” The writer was (I surmised) was Gary Marshall. If you track Yahoo, you will want to read this article and add it to your collection. For me the most interesting comment in the write up came from one of TechRadar’s sources:

There was a culture a couple of years ago of highly competitive bidding, and nobody really knew what services were going to be necessary or strategic. These companies were essentially trying to outmaneuver their competitors and grab the asset, the hot new company or the feature or tool that might turn into something meaningful for users or advertisers. “I do think Yahoo and some of its competitors were being short-sighted and irrational, and weren’t doing acquisitions with a coherent strategy. It was very like real estate speculation, with people bidding irrationally because there was so much competition.”

The conclusion of the write up offers some light at the end of the tunnel. I am not confident that the light will be sufficiently bright to allow Yahoo to lead Yahoo to financial security and its former technical prominence. Yahoo no longer has the breathing room it enjoyed from 1998 to 2004 when Google was organizing its phalanges. True, the market is bigger and Yahoo has a solid brand and solid traffic. But there are new competitors with more focused services. Yahoo has to act and act fast, then show bottom-line results. Time may be running out.

Stephen Arnold, April 29, 2009

Jigsaw Assembles Contact Pieces

April 29, 2009

VentureBeat reported that Jigsaw, the sales contact service, has allegedly solved the up-to-date problem. Contacts get stale. The Jigsaw Data Fusion service taps its database and updates them. You can read the full story “Jigsaw Launches Data Fusion to Clean Up Sales Contact Lists” here. For me the most interesting comment in the item was:

What Jigsaw tries to fix is an age-old problem: most contacts in sales databases are out of date. It does so by keeping its own accurate and updated business contact list from a community of over 800,000 business users. The Jigsaw records are updated in real time and come with name, title, company, work email, business phone, and address. Data Fusion is now available on Salesforce.com’s Force.com AppExchange application platform.

Similar functions are available from specialist vendors, but I quite liked the combination of fixing up, the real time angle, and the availability of the service on Salesforce.com. Good idea.

Stephen Arnold, April 29, 2009

Autonomy Thrives in Lousy Economic Climate

April 29, 2009

I am at Day Two of the Boston Search Engine Meeting. At the break, I talked with a small group and the subject was the impact of the financial climate on the enterprise search vendors. I heard the names of two vendors who in the opinion of a couple of people with whom I spoke are gasping for nutrients in the form of dollars and euros. I don’t feel comfortable mentioning the name of one semantic-centric vendor and one non-US vendor who were the subject of speculation. In my opinion, there are probably a half dozen or more of the companies that I track in a resource pickle.

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One notable exception is the UK based vendor Autonomy. I did not see a representative of Autonomy at this conference, but I have been too busy to conduct an inventory of the attendees. Autonomy reported a week or two ago that it was likely to have a solid financial performance. I did a quick check, and it is evident, if I understand Autonomy’s data, that the lousy climate is not inhibiting Autonomy’s growth.

You can Kathy Sandler’s take here. She reported on April 23, 2009, that Autonomy plans to upgrade its 2009 earnings projections. I am not a financial whiz, but the information in Ms. Sandler’s write up looks good across the board – revenue, earnings, and cost management.

My high school history teacher was fond of repeating the alleged anecdote about the drunk General US Grant and President Lincoln’s alleged comment: “Find out what he’s drinking and send a case to my other generals?”

Is it time for other enterprise search companies to take a hard look at what fuels Autonomy’s crops. Say what you will about the company’s acquisition strategy, the firm seems to be harvesting.

Are Autonomy’s competitors to arrogant to look at Mr. Lynch and determine what he does to harvest cash as others shrivel?

Stephen Arnold, April 29, 2009

Alpha Google: When Mathematicians Collide

April 28, 2009

Google has quite a few folks who are good at math. Dr. Stephen Wolfram is good at math, and he wrote a program that some of the Googlers used when they were but wee lads learning Algebraic Combinatorics. On April 28, 2009, Wolfram Alpha was previewed before a crowd of math lovers at Harvard. Almost at the moment the Wolfram Alpha crowd was gasping at a system that provided answers, not results lists, the Google showed that it was not turning into a bunny hiding from the Wolfram.

What did the Google do?

The company rolled out a nifty search, public data, visualization, analyst cookie jar. You can read about Google Public Data in the breathless prose of the Washington Post, whose editors may be thinking about using the system to generate graphs without the graphics department. The Post’s article was “Google Unveils New Tool To Dig for Public Data” here. Google’s own description is typical Google prose – understated and entitlement tinged. You can read that official statement here.

Wolfram Alpha, according to TechCrunch, released a digital salvo after the Google disrupted the Wolfram dog and pony show. You can read about that counter attack here.

What does the addled goose think of these computational confrontations? Three things:

  1. You can take the kids out of the math club but you can’t get the math club behavior out of the kids. Snark, snark.
  2. Google made it clear that the Wolfram crowd required more direct action than any other search challenger in recent memory. As an addled goose, my memory is not too good, but I saw the counter offensive as an indication that Google sniffed napalm in the morning.
  3. Search is complicated. When you wheel out the math guns and they fire at one another, those azure chip consultants who played youth soccer and ate sushi after have a tough time explaining the systems and methods used by both companies to deliver ready to recycle data analysis for free. Yep, search is easy.

Stephen Arnold, April 29, 2009

Twitter Quitter

April 28, 2009

Short honk: I heard quite a bit about how lousy Twitter.com is at the Boston Search Engine Meeting. Now those Twitter bashers have some ammo for their argument. Mashable, the bible of the real time mash up sector, reported 60% of Twitter Users Quit Within the First Month. Click here to check out the stats.

Stephen Arnold, April 29, 2009

Google Books Gets Slammed

April 28, 2009

After a wonder United Airlines (oops, typo, Untied Airlines flight, I checked the goodies in my newsreader. Tess and Tyson wanted to go to the park, but I spotted an interesting post and wanted to pass it along. The story’s title was designed to stop me: “Google Faces Antitrust Investigation over $125m Book Deal” here. The author of the story was Bobbie Johnson and the publisher was Google’s old pal, The Guardian, a dead tree outfit in the UK. The story is straightforward. Bobbie Johnson wrote:

not everybody inside the administration has such warm feelings towards the Californian internet powerhouse. Christine Varney – Obama’s nominee to run the Department of Justice’s antitrust division – has already voiced concerns about Google’s power, saying she could “see a problem, potentially, with Google”. Varney, who was part of the team who fought a long-running antitrust case against Microsoft in the 1990s, told a meeting in Washington last year that “Microsoft is so last century”, but that Google could pose a threat because it “has acquired a monopoly in internet online advertising”.

You may find CNet’s take on this useful as well. Click here for Stephen Shankland’s story.

My hunch is that The Guardian will be like Tess and Tyson when each gets a new rawhide chew bone. Excitement shall ensue. I wonder, “Will The Guardian start a regular feature to track Google as it wanders in the legal thickets?” My hunch is that the book operation will continue to chug along. Law moves less quickly than the Google.

Stephen Arnold, April 28, 2009

Google Defines Its View of the Cloud

April 28, 2009

Rajen Sheth, Senior Product Manager, Google Apps, has posted a definition of cloud services for Google. You will want to read the full write up here. The key point stuck into me was the sweep of the Google vision. The cloud to the GOOG embraces innovation, applications, hardware plumbing, Google software and services, and combinations of these components. Some suggest that Amazon has beaten Google to the feed bag. Others suggest that it is early days for cloud computing. My view is that Google has not made many changes in the last year or so. What’s new is that Google has created a public statement and cross linked to it from its other Web logs. Googzilla lurches forward.

Stephen Arnold, April 28, 2009

Vine: Google Lost in the Undergrowth

April 28, 2009

Update: A reader wanted me to point to this Fortune item by Henry Blodget who did not take my gentle approach to the Vine service. Maybe I was too subtle?

The week is young and I am tangled in social and local search announcements. Facebook is almost a little semi open. This morning I learned that Microsoft has rolled out Vine. You can read the Seattle Times write up here or Search Engine Land description here. Microsoft is probably quite happy with the local newspaper’s view; for instance:

It’s been awhile since Microsoft introduced a game-changing social Web application, but Vine — a service that’s debuting today with a beta test in Seattle — could be a contender.

A contender. I can hear Rocky’s coach now. “Kid, you’re gonna go all the way.”

What’s the title?

The idea is to show a map of a user’s locality and make “experience” a one click task. Unlike other local services, Microsoft has put a business spin on the service. Instead of positioning the new service as a way for teens to meet up at friend’s house when the parents are on vacation, Vine can be used for emergency and other serious types of geospatial communication services.

I think this is interesting for two reasons. First, the geospatial, social, local angle is of keen interest to users and entrepreneurs, to youth and those in organizations looking for ways to become more efficiency. Second, the service noses ahead of Google’s offerings in this sector.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that Vine is likely to suck millions of Facebook.com, Twitter.com, and other hot services dry in the next couple of weeks. The hardware requirements are hefty, well beyond my mobile device’s capabilities. Mary-Jo Foley wrote for ZDNet here:

For users accessing Vine via the Internet, the software component of the beta service requires a PC running XP SP2 or Vista; and 600 MB of hard disk space (100 MB for Vine and 500 MB for the .Net Framework 3.5 SP1).

I do think that Vine makes Google look like it missed an opportunity. Now Google can point to dozens of services that allow a user to map, communicate, and geolocate all day long. Google may argue that its services are building blocks which a Googley developer can assemble into a Twitter.com on steroids.

For today, Microsoft has an edge. Now can the Redmond giant expose the blade of a light saber to leave me with a one track plastic straight razor?

Google and the News News

April 28, 2009

I did not know about Google’s old plan for the news. I learned about the “old” plan and the “new” plan by reading “Eric Schmidt on Google’s New Plan for the News” in The Wrap here. The Wrap reported:

I asked if the rumors I’d heard, that Google was changing its mind about getting involved with creating original content, were true. No, he responded, quite convincingly, they’re not. Google is not a content company, and is not going in that direction, he explained. But Google does have plans for a solution. In about six months, the company will roll out a system that will bring high-quality news content to users without them actively looking for it. Under this latest iteration of advanced search, users will be automatically served the kind of news that interests them just by calling up Google’s page. The latest algorithms apply ever more sophisticated filtering – based on search words, user choices, purchases, a whole host of cues – to determine what the reader is looking for without knowing they’re looking for it.

The old plan was to index the world’s information. The new plan is to index the world’s information. I like the new plan.

Stephen Arnold, April 28, 2009

Yahooligans Losing Ground

April 28, 2009

Short honk: A small item in Barron’s caught my attention. The article “What’s Up with Yahoo?” here notices a softening of Yahoo’s already mushy shares. Eric Savitz points out the drop in values. The real action in the post appears in the comments here. One item in particular caught my attention; to wit:

Look at their traffic patterns 40% of traffic is derived from the sub-domain mail.yahoo.com, and Bartz is cutting all their other services. Yahoo is becoming nothing more than the largest free email provider in the world, and that reality is starting to come up over and over in analysts discussions of the company.

Not a peep about search. Think it’s marginalized?

Stephen Arnold, April 28, 2009

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