Bing Review

May 31, 2009

Short honk: Scooopy.com (yep, three ohs) published a useful review of Bing.com, Microsoft’s most recent attempt to close the search gap between Redmond and Googzilla. You can find “First Look – Microsoft’s New BING Search Engine” here. The highlight is a breakout of Bing.com’s search “sections”. Useful.

Stephen Arnold, June 1, 2009

A Believer in Microsoft Bing

May 31, 2009

Shareholders in Microsoft may hold a parade for Larry Magid. He wrote “Don’t Count Microsoft Out in Search” for the San Jose (oops Silicon Valley) Mercury News. You can find the story here. Mr. Magid sees Bing as a potential contender in the Web search wars.

The premise of the story is that Microsoft’s most recent weapon in the battle for Web search eyeballs has a fighting chance against Googzilla. So, in the battle between Bing and the Google, Mr. Magid is urging odds makers to keep Microsoft in the game.

Mr. Magid reported:

It would be a gross exaggeration to call Bing a Google killer, but that’s OK. Google doesn’t have to die for Microsoft to succeed in search. Besides, Ballmer made it very clear that he doesn’t expect Bing to overtake Google in the foreseeable future. Microsoft, if anything, is persistent. It took three tries before Microsoft Word was worthy of becoming the dominant word processing program, and it wasn’t until version 3.0 that Windows began to get serious traction. To differentiate itself from Google, Bing is not only visually more attractive, it’s also more informative. Functioning as what Microsoft is calling a “decision engine,” rather than simply linking you to sites, Bing searches often end with information directly from Bing. For example, if you type in the name of a city you get local weather, hotel prices and other information without having to click anywhere. And, depending on the content licensing rules of sites that Bing draws from, it can sometimes display content directly — from Wikipedia for example — without the user having to click through. It even has a built-in shopping engine that, when you search for a product, shows you images, offerings from multiple merchants as well as product information, customer reviews and expert reviews.

My view is that a company with a seven to eight percent market share is what we in Kentucky would call a long shot. Sure, Derby winners come from the back of the pack to win the Run for the Roses. But in the Web search sector, there are some non-horse feathers facts with which to deal:

  1. Microsoft has approached search as a series of vertical content slices. There’s not much evidence that vertical search slices can narrow the Googzilla sized gap between Google’s market share and Microsoft’s market share in Web search. It’s not even clear if people will navigate to a vertical search system directly. My research indicates that people navigate to Google and type in the name of the service or function they want. Then Google spits out the url. Google is the finder; Bing may be the site receiving referrals from the Google. A bit of tweaking could change this quickly, might it not?
  2. Microsoft, Yahoo, and other firms have tried to get traction in Web search. What’s happened is a heck of a lot of repositioning. Web search companies jump into SEO or seek refuge in the enterprise market, indexing services for publishers, or brand themselves as business intelligence vendors. So far, that’s worked for some companies, but for many Web search firms, the outfits are road kill on the information superhighway. Google has been nuking these deer and possum with semi-truck efficiency.
  3. Google, in a lousy economy, has been * extending * its lead in the Web search sector. It will take more than $100 million in advertising to narrow the gap between user behavior and Bing adoption. What may happen is that Bing like the Microsoft butterfly will morph into some other creature. Microsoft’s best bet for crippling Google may be rain dance to bring thunderstorms to three amigos who run Google. A management blow up would create some new opportunities for Web search competitors.

Bing Kumo is a long shot in the Web search Derby. Just my opinion.

Stephen Arnold, June 2, 2009

A Surprising Ripple for Wave in the SharePoint Ocean

May 31, 2009

Information Week published an interesting article about Google Wave. You will want to read Thomas Claburn’s informed essay “Google Wave May Challenge Microsoft SharePoint” here. Unlike the gushing at the nerd-centric Web logs, Mr. Claburn steps back and points out that Google Wave is a not exactly the consumer thrill ride that those receiving free HTC Android 1.5 G2 mobile devices cheered.

Mr. Claburn wrote:

Wave also has the potential to blunt the success of Microsoft’s SharePoint. While Google isn’t positioning Wave as a SharePoint competitor, Gundotra at a press conference following the Wave demonstration highlighted Wave’s openness as something lacking in SharePoint. Within a year or two, businesses considering SharePoint but worried about vendor lock-in may have an attractive lightweight alternative.

Wave is a demo, not a product or platform as I write this. If Mr. Claburn is right, Microsoft may have to shift its attention from one more suicide run at Google’s Web search bunker and shore up its defenses in its SharePoint stronghold.

Stephen Arnold, May 31, 2009

Page’s Law

May 31, 2009

Short honk: one for the Murphy’s Law crowd. I was not at the Google shindig this week, but my son was. I learned about Page’s Law from him. I poked around and found a reference on Gawker.com. Navigate here to read the law and view the video of the explanation. Here’s the synopsis of the idea from Gawker:

It says software gets twice as slow every 18 months.

The consequence is that a computing device gets slower. Believe it or not.

Stephen Arnold, May 31, 2009

SharePoint Sunday: Performance Testing

May 31, 2009

If you have a zippy SharePoint system, you won’t need to read this post. If you have users complaining about 30 second or longer wait times for basic operations like saving and opening objects, you will want to note JOPX’s “Web Testing (and Load Testing) SharePoint 2007 with Visual Studio 2008” here. Last week I watched a SharePoint installation cause employees to open documents before lunch. The idea was that the system would display the document by the time the worker drank a bottle of water and ate a cheese sandwich. Believe it or not, that 30 minute interval was not sufficient. What’s even more remarkable is that SharePoint users in this organization are resigned to such performance issues.

Among the performance sources and code snippets are these useful items:

Useful post, JOPX.

Stephen Arnold, May 31, 2009

Forrester after Being Swamped by Google Wave

May 31, 2009

Forrester published reports about search with the “wave” tag. Now Google has usurped “wave” for its new approach to communications. Forrester, one of the azure chip consulting firms, has responded with its own repositioning. You can read “Independent Research Firm to Provide Proven Tactics for Integrating Email, Social Strategies” here.

The news item said:

One of the nation’s leading research firms will provide proven tactics for integrating social media into email marketing campaigns during a Webinar.

That’s what Google Wave is supposed to offer as one of its functions. The technology for the Forrester Webinar comes from ExactTarget. No waves in sight.

Stephen Arnold, May 30, 2009

Search Archaeology

May 30, 2009

I find it amusing to look at articles about search, content processing and text mining. Perhaps I am tired or just confused. The past to me stretches back to cards with holes and wire rods and to the original NASA RECON system. For Computer Active, the past stretches all the way back to Lycos. You may find this revisionist view of history interesting. Click here to read “Bunch of Fives: Forgotten Search Engines.”

Let me comment of the five search engines, adding a bit of addled goose color to the authors’ view of search:

  • Cuil.com. Cuil is a product of a Googler (Anna Patterson), her husband, and some other wizards. The company had a connection to Google. Dr. Patterson’s patents are still stumbling out of the USPTO with Google as an assignee. Xift, Dr. Patterson’s search system, was not mentioned in Computer Active. It was important for its semantic method and it exposed Dr. Patterson to the Alta Vista team. Alta Vista played some role in Google’s rise to success and its current plumbing. Cuil has improved, and I thought I saw a result set including some Google content before the system became publicly available. I use Cuil.com, and I am not sure if “forgotten” is a good word for it or its technology.
  • MSN Live. I have lost count of Microsoft’s search systems. Microsoft search initiatives have moved through many iterations. The important point for me is that Microsoft is persistent. The search technology is an amalgamation of home grown, licensed, purchased, and reworked components. The search journey for Microsoft is not yet over. Bing is a demo. The rebuild of Fast as a SharePoint product is now in demo stage but not yet free of its Web and Linux roots. More to come on this front and, believe me, Microsoft search is not forgotten by Google or others in the search business.
  • Alta Vista. Yep, big deal. The reason is that Alta Vista provided the Googlers with a pool of experienced and motivated talent. The job switch from the hopelessly confused Hewlett Packard to the freewheeling Google was an easy one. Alta Vista persists today, and I still use the service for certain types of queries. What’s interesting is that Alta Vista may have been one of the greatest influences on both Google and Microsoft. Again. Not forgotten.
  • Lycos. We sold our Point system to Lycos, so I have some insight into that company’s system. The key point for me is that Fuzzy and his fellow band of coders from Carnegie Mellon sparked the interest in more timely and comprehensive Web search. Lycos was important at a sparkplug, but the company was among the first to add some important index update features and expanded snippets for each hit. Lycos has had a number of owners, but I won’t forget it. When we sold Point to the outfit, the check cleared the bank. That I will remember along with the fact that architectural issues hobbled the system just as the Excite Architext system was slowed. These are search as portal examples today.
  • Ask Jeeves. I can’t forget. One of the first Ask Jeeves execs used to work at Ziff. I followed the company’s efforts to create query templates that allowed the system to recognize a question and then deliver an answer. The company was among the first to bill this approach “natural language” but it wasn’t. Ask Jeeves was a look up service and it relied on humans to find answers to certain questions. Ask.com is the descendent of Ask Jeeves’ clunky technology, but the system today is a supported by ace entrepreneur Barry Diller who, like Steve Ballmer, is persistent. The key point about Ask Jeeves is that it marketed old technology with a flashy and misleading buzzword “natural language”. Marketers of search systems today practice this type of misnaming as a standard practice. Who can forget this when a system is described one way and then operates quite another.

Enjoy revisionism. Much easier in a Twitter- and Facebook-centric world with a swelling bulge of under 40 experts, mavens, and pundits. These systems failed in some ways and succeeded in others. I remember each. I still use each, just not frequently.

Stephen Arnold, May 31, 2009

Wave Servers

May 30, 2009

Interesting item from Cnet. The company reported here in “Google Won’t Run All the Wave Servers” an evolutionary step for the Google. Rafe Needleman corrected an earlier assertion that Google would run the Wave system itself. Not true. He wrote on May 29, 2009:

Google has said it will “federate” Wave. That means it will make it possible for anyone to operate their own Wave server and have it communicate with other Wave servers. This is just how e-mail works today: Anyone can run an e-mail server that can send messages to and receive messages from any other e-mail system. The Internet routes messages from server to server. In contrast, only Google runs the Gmail servers.

Mr. Needleman reported that this type of “federated” set up is tricky to run. In my research, Google’s method for synchronizing across servers makes use of Google-developed technology. I described the core of the approach in my 2005 The Google Legacy available here. My take on the method is that the Google once again has approached a potential deal breaker in a fresh way thus making possible Wave as well as some cross server functionality in the Guha Programmable Search Engine invention and the firm’s forthcoming dataspace services.

Reading about Google is a bit like watching the company in a rear view mirror. I try to look out the windshield but that’s a characteristic of an old, addled goose.

Stephen Arnold, June 4, 2009

Connotate Update

May 30, 2009

Connotate is a content aggregation service. Two days ago a reader sent me a link to a story about Connotate on the MyCentralJersey.com Web site. The article “New Brunswick Software Company Tracks Web Info for Clients” here by Jared Twasser was informative and provided an interesting insight into the nine year old company. Mr. Twasser wrote:

Molloy [a Connotate senior manager] said Connotate’s technology is different than search engines, such as Google, that scour the Web searching for keywords. “What we do is we’re able to understand a page at a much deeper level,” he said. “We’re able to understand a page on an element level, not just the whole page, but we can understand objects on the page.” The system works because the user can train the software to find specific information … such as prices, job postings or press releases — on a given Web site. The software was developed at Rutgers University and the company was founded by two Rutgers professors and a former research programmer in 2000.

I found this interesting for two reasons. The notion of understanding content is very much in the news with the firestorm of articles about Microsoft’s smart search system Bing. Second, the idea for parsing content in almost a decade old. More information about the Connotate system is here.

My question, “What is new about Bing’s parsing?”

Any answers, gentle readers.

Stephen Arnold, May 30, 2009

Library of Congress Word List

May 30, 2009

Short honk: Quite a few taxonomy discussions this week. I need to demo an authority list. I turned to the Library of Congress. If you want a copy of the authority list in XML, navigate here and click go.

Stephen Arnold, May 30, 2009

Next Page »