The Future of the Web Is… Google

November 22, 2014

I read “The Future of the Web (According to Google).” I love cheerleaders. But cheerleaders are not the game unless the program is one of those fillers that ESPN airs at odd ball times. In a nutshell, the future is video and Google’s (for now) of quite specific programming methods.

Here’s the passage I noted:

It’s clear that Google cares deeply about improving the mobile web experience. Personally, I tend to believe that the native app pendulum has swung out about as far as it can, and in the next few years we’ll start seeing it swing back toward Web tech again. Native vs. web isn’t a zero-sum game. There will always be reasons to build web apps, there will always be reasons to build native apps. We’re heading toward a future, however, where some of the biggest reasons to build native on mobile are going to disappear. As a developer who loves the web, that’s exciting.

The only storm clouds in this vision of the future are:

  • Erosion of Google’s desktop advertising model which is, I believe, based on the GoTo/Overture/Yahoo model and not Google’s inherent innovative engine
  • Europe’s desire to regulate the company
  • The company’s penchant for taking its eye off the here and now and gazing into a future chock full of Google toys
  • Internal management issues which resulted in one Googler believing her life had ground to a halt along with Google Glass.

Stephen E Arnold, November 22, 2014

Mozzila and Search Changes: Meh

November 20, 2014

You can read the crashing waves of opinions about Mozilla and its falling out of love with the GOOG. “Firefox Drops Google as Default Search Engine…” presents the new, “real” journalism approach; to wit:

Firefox has lost market share in recent years but is still used by roughly 17 percent of web goers.

Juicy factoid. Small percentage in a world in which traffic and eyeballs matter.

You can get the search engine optimization/inside scoop viewpoint in “Mozilla CEO: It Wasn’t Money — Yahoo Was The Better Strategic Partner For Firefox.” I noted this:

The official line from the Mozilla blog post about the deal helps parse what being a good strategic partner seems to be. It praises Yahoo as being “aligned with our values of choice and independence” — which suggests that Firefox was feeling that Google had become too controlling or wanted more control about what was happening within Firefox. Or, perhaps Mozilla felt Google has been less about supporting the web and more about supporting itself than in the past.

My view is not just tepid; it is indifferent. Monopolistic behaviors are the order of the day. Yahoo is no monopoly. Yandex may have a shot as long it stays on the right side of certain governmental authorities. Baidu is the best of the bunch, but one misstep and I would suggest that life could be viewed through a filter.

As the browser becomes the new operating system, if you are not running what’s mainstream, there may be some challenges ahead. Do you still have an Eagle desktop computer? If so, dig it out, plug in your DEC Rainbow, and let me know how you read this blog post.

Oh, and what about search? It seems to rank right along with the Mozilla attitude toward money in my opinion.

Stephen E Arnold, November 20, 2014

Google Free and Clear to Rank Search Results Any Way It Wants

November 18, 2014

Well, bad news for those who want to force Google to modify the order in which search results appear. If I understand “Court Rules Google Can Arrange Search Results Any Way It Wants,” relevance is what Google wants. Period.

Precision. Irrelevant.

Recall. Irrelevant.

Relevance. Google defines it, thank you.

Here’s the key passage in the “real” journalism write up:

Sure, this [San Francisco court decision] doesn’t mean Google will be protected forever from other angry websites, here at home or elsewhere around the globe. But, should a similar lawsuit arise, it does allow the company to argue that a court has already agreed with it before.

The GOOG is unleashed. Are you thinking more about AdWords.

Stephen E Arnold, November 18, 2014

Former Publishing Executive Sentenced

November 15, 2014

Short honk: I read “Thomas MIddlehoff, Ex Chief of Bertelsmann, Gets 3 Year Prison Term over Misuse of Funds.” The story online appeared on November 14, 2014, and it ran in the November 15, 2014, dead tree edition of a real “news” publication on page B3.

Ah, another executive getting caught. Not much to interest me. But tucked deep in the paragraphs of the “real” news story was this passage:

Despite his legal problems, Mr. Middelhoff had remained a director of The New York Times Company until April of this year, departing for reasons neither he nor The Times publicly explained. “We are saddened to learn this news today,” Eileen M. Murphy, vice president for corporate communications at The Times, said in an email. “Thomas was a valued member of our board for 10 years and we wish him well.”\

Real journalists are a loyal bunch. I assume in the rarified stratosphere of the intellectual gatekeepers, overlooking certain signals relating to a person’s behavior can be misinterpreted; for example, misuse of funds is translated as good business thinking.

Stephen E Arnold, November 15, 2014

Hewlett Packard Shuffles Legal Deck Chairs

November 15, 2014

Short honk: I am not an attorney (heaven forbid). I found this somewhat opaque, inside baseball write up interesting: “Baker & McKenzie, Freshfields and Gibson Dunn Cross Fingers as HP Kicks Off Panel Tender.” The write up references HP’s “contentious year.” I would agree. When a football team makes changes, it is usually because the human element is not fitting into the team. I suppose with a new line up, HP will win more legal games. I would be happy if I could get my HP ink jet printer to work when the temperature drops. I wonder if Autonomy’s founder is making changes to his legal team? Dr. Lynch is probably too busy with his new businesses. HP, however, has some reason for making news with a legal shuffle.

Stephen E Arnold, November 15, 2014

Why Traditional Print and Database Publishers Are in Even More Trouble Than Thought

November 12, 2014

I read two articles snagged by my Overflight service. The first is “Are You Ready for Marketing in 2020?” The story ran in what I thought was one of the UK’s most eager of the electronic pony riders. The other is a news report that LinkedIn, the social network for those desperate for contract or 9-to5 work and individuals with a hunger for getting 15 nanoseconds of fame. Yep, the entity “Stephen E Arnold” has a presence on LinkedIn. However, the “entity” is powered by the efforts of two of my research goslings and a real law librarian. We find the response to the “Stephen E Arnold” postings to the LinkedIn faithful amusing and somewhat horrifying.

Let’s look at each news item and then do some social and digital strategery, a neologism from the W era of the US presidency.

The Guardian asks a question and then promptly answers it without any reference whatsoever to the steady erosion of the traditional newspaper and magazine business. The author, a real journalist I presume, shows some grim data about the decline in ad revenue. There is a fix for this. A “real” newspaper or magazine can quit fiddling with the objective journalism stuff and get down to selling “inclusions.”

If you are not familiar with an inclusion in “real” publishing, allow me to explain. Think about those big, fat college guides that parents buy when Jill or James is “looking for a college.” Some of the entries are obese. Ever wonder why? Well, the business model of many college guides are based on selling space to the colleges and universities. Instead of calling these juicy descriptions of caring faculty and well groomed campuses advertising, the publishers use the euphemism “inclusion.”

How does this fit into the decline of newspaper advertising revenue? Easy. Just sell stories that pitch the advertisers’ view of reality. Then sell social media posts about the inclusion. Keep beating the drum until the inclusion buyer’s money runs out. Rinse. Repeat.

The solution is different from mine. The future in 2020 marketing will be data, content, channels, and technology. I think  these are fine words, but the job is to hook these words to money. That will be done by charging for the newspaper or magazine endorse, brand power, and ability to put out content that has more credibility than a blog produced by an unemployed journalist, a failed Webmaster, or a retired person like moi.

The Guardian “real” news story concludes with a question: “Are you ready for marketing 2020 style?” Well, the answer in my opinion is that “real” newspaper and magazine publishers are not ready for 2020. They were not ready for online content in the 1960s. Now a half century later, these outfits are still struggling in a digital fish bowl. By 2020, most of the “real” newspapers and magazines will either become PR and SEO outfits, get into a different business like real estate, or fail. In  my opinion, the very expensive and complex business model of the Monocle will not be viable due to the difficulty of generating enough revenue to keep prints, shops, online, and other bits and pieces affordable.

The second article is “LinkedIn acquires Newsle, a Google Alerts-Style Service for You and Your Network. One good thing about LinkedIn is that it is more focused than Amazon or Google. The company offers the ego- and unemployed focus that sets it apart from other social networks. Also, the company has snagged a couple of content centric properties. I quite like Slideshare because users create content, upload it, and get the benefit of being able to hunt for work or boost their ego. That’s synergistic in the MBA 1975 definition of the term. The Newsle deal, like the Pulse deal, is aimed at service. These have potential to distribute Linked In “posts” and news about Slideshare uploads as well as content that some publishers provide. Please, note that the savvy publisher will charge a person or company to write a story, slap the “real” publication’s name on it, and then hose the data to LinkedIn’s services. So I am on board with this type of acquisition for LinkedIn.

But the real impact of this LinkedIn constellation of services is that traditi0nal database publishers like ProQuest and Ebsco Electronic Publishing are likely to find themselves in a deeper hole than the one they are now in. The traditional market for these outfits is a library willing to pay outrageous prices for content produced by others. Publishers are rightly suspicious of these database outfits. If specialized information is the focal point, the audience for ACM or IEEE content remains small. As a percentage of the working population, the specialist markets are more difficult to increase. Selling cheaper mobile devices is a tough business, but these burgeoning prospect pools are looking for ways to reduce their costs of online, not raise them by reading the full text of Elsevier journals.

Raising prices for this specialized content will squeeze both the professional customers and the go-between companies like Cambridge Scientific Abstracts. Westlaw and Lexis already are feeling the effects of having their core market flee for jobs at Uber, Kentucky Fried Chicken, human resources, and trying to make a franchise pay for the kids’ sneakers. Legal information is indeed a very tough business compared to the salad days of expensive online information. I balk at paying $100, $250, or more for a query of US government produced legal documents. I am not alone I believe.

This means that LinkedIn may benefit from “real” newspapers and magazines charging for inclusions. As LinkedIn’s audience grows, it—not the publishers nor the intermediating database folks—will get the big paydays necessary to live high on the hog.

Good for LinkedIn. Not so good for the folks who have not adapted to the 1970s. By 2020, many of these outfits will be like the snow leopards. LinkedIn could be one of the winners.

Stephen E Arnold, November 12, 2014

Palantir Is a Fund-Raising Leader

November 7, 2014

We have been following the progress of content processing firm Palantir, a business that seems to have both a strong vision and robust follow-through. Now, the Silicon Valley Business Journal highlights Palantir’s fundraising chops in, “Q3 VC Update: Who Did the Most Deals, Got the Most Money in Silicon Valley.” Their senior tech reporter Cromwell Schubarth gives a funding rundown from the quarter that spans July through August of this year; he reports:

“Palo Alto-based Palantir Technologies, the $9 billion Big Data analytics company that counts U.S. government intelligence agencies among its backers, had the Bay Area’s biggest funding round in the quarter. It raised $337 million in the quarter, according to CB Insights.

“CB Insights reported on Tuesday that venture dollars raised in the third quarter in the U.S. dropped 30 percent from the post-dotcom high they hit in the second quarter, and the number of deals done declined by 10 percent.”

So, Palantir excelled despite a downturn that quarter. The article goes on to list more details about each entry in their list (see the piece for the four runners-up), and this is what Schubarth says about Palantir:

“This Palo Alto-based Big Data analytics company is led by CEO Alex Karp and has raised about $1 billion since it launched in 2004. It is valued at about $9 billion and was co-founded by Karp, Peter Thiel, Joe Lonsdale and others. Its backers include Thiel’s Founders Fund and In-Q-Tel, the venture arm of U.S. intelligence agencies.”

Palantir’s founding members came from such promising pools as PayPal alumni and Stanford computer science grads. The firm is famous for serving government intelligence agencies, but maintains clients in a range of fields. Its massive-scale data platforms allow even the largest organizations to integrate, manage, and secure all sorts of data. The company is based in Palo Alto, California, but has offices around the world.

Cynthia Murrell, November 07, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Google and Axel Springer: Traffic Means Power

November 6, 2014

In the summer of 2014, Axel Springer acquired 20 percent of the Pertimm-powered Qwant. As you may know, which I profile in my current Information Today article, is a Web search engine with features. Believe me, lots of features. What Qwant does not have is traffic. Google’s Eric Schmidt believes the quirky system is a threat. From my lookout on top of the crest of the hill near the hollow in which I live in rural Kentucky, that strikes me as a very rotten red herring.

Axel Springer now understands the difference between the traffic generated by Qwanta and other Web search engines and the Google if I understand “German Publishing Giant Axel Springer Caves in over Google News Snippets Row.” The article reports:

Announcing the free license for Google yesterday, Axel Springer said that traffic to the sites had declined by nearly 40 percent since Google stopped producing snippets and thumbnails on October 23. It also claimed that traffic to the German sites from Google News was down by almost 80 percent.

You can work through the “real” journalistic approach to this point when you read the original article.

What’s important to me is that Google traffic flows are a powerful tool in Google’s negotiating arsenal. Even if you own a search engine, if you are not in Google, you don’t exist. I wonder how Edmund Gustav Albrecht Husserl would view this fact.

Stephen E Arnold, November 6, 2014

IBM Watson Has a Tough Question to Answer

November 6, 2014

In a sense, the erosion of a well-known company is interesting to watch. Some might use the word “bittersweet.” IBM has been struggling. Its “profits” come from stock buybacks, reductions in force, cost cutting, and divestitures. Coincident with the company’s quarterly financial reports, I heard two messages.

  1. We are not going to hit the 2015 targets we said we were going to hit
  2. IBM paid another company money to “acquire” one of IBM’s semiconductor units.

I may have these facts wrong, but what’s important is that the messaging about IBM’s strategic health sends signals which I find troubling. IBM is a big company, and it will take time for its ultimate trajectory to be discernable. But from my vantage point in rural Kentucky, IBM has its work cut out for its thousands of professionals.

I read “Does Watson Know the Answer to IBM’s Woes?” Compared to other Technology Review write ups about IBM’s projected $10 billion revenue juggernaut, the article finally suggests that IBM’s Watson may not be the unit that produces billions in new revenue.

Here’s a passage I highlighted with my trusty yellow marker:

Watson is still a work in progress. Some companies and researchers testing Watson systems have reported difficulties in adapting the technology to work with their data sets. IBM’s CEO, Virginia Rometty, said in October last year that she expects Watson to bring in $10 billion in annual revenue in 10 years, even though that figure then stood at around $100 million.

Let’s consider this $100 million number. If it is accurate, IBM is now one eighth the size of Autonomy when HP paid $11 billion for the company. It took Autonomy more than 14 years to hit this figure. In order to produce $800 million in revenue, Autonomy had to invest, license, and acquire technology and businesses. In total, Autonomy was more like an information processing holding company, not a company built on a one trick pony like Google’s search and advertising technology. Autonomy’s revenue was diversified for one good reason: It has been very difficult to built multi billion dollar businesses on basic search and retrieval. Google hit $60 billion because it hooked search to advertising. Autonomy generated seven times more revenue than Endeca because it was diversified. Endeca never broke out of three main product lines: ecommerce, search, and business intelligence. And Endeca never generated more than an estimated $160 million in revenue per year at the time of its sale to Oracle. Even Google’s search appliance fell short of Autonomy’s revenues. Now IBM wants to generate more money from search than Autonomy and in one third the time. Perhaps IBM could emulate Mike Lynch’s business approach, but event then this seems like a bridge too far. (This is a more gentle way of saying, “Not possible in 60 months.”)

It is very difficult to generate billions of dollars from search without some amazing luck and an angle.

If IBM has $100 million in revenue, how will the company generate $1 billion and then an additional $9 billion. The PR razzle dazzle that has involved TV game shows, recipes with tamarind, and an all out assault on main stream media about Watson has been impressive. In search, $100 million is a pretty good achievement. But $100 million does not beget $1 billion without some significant breakthroughs in marketing, technology, must have applications, and outstanding management.

From my point of view, Technology Review and other high profile “real” news outfits have parroted the IBM story about Watson, artificial intelligence, and curing cancer. To IBM’s credit, it has refrained from trying to cure death. Google has this task in hand.

The story includes a modest but refreshing statement about the improbability of Watson’s financial goal:

“It’s not taking off as quickly as they would like,” says Robert Austin, a professor of management at Copenhagen Business School who has studied IBM’s strategy over the years. “This is one of those areas where turning demos into real business value depends on the devils in the details. I think there’s a bold new world coming, but not as fast as some people think.”

As the story points out, “Watson is still a work in progress.”

Hey, no kidding?

Stephen E Arnold, November 6, 2014

Enterprise Search: Is It Really a Loser?

November 5, 2014

I read “Enterprise Search: Despite Benefits, Few Organizations Use Enterprise Search.” The headline caught my attention. In my experience, most organizations have information access systems. Let me give you several recent examples:

  • US government agency. This agency licenses technology from a start up called Red Owl Analytics. That system automatically gathers and makes available information pertinent to the licensing agency. One of the options available to the licensee is to process information that is available within the agency. The system generates outputs and there are functions that allow a user to look for information. I am reasonably confident that the phrase “enterprise search” would not be applied to this company’s information access system. Because Red Owl fits into a process for solving a business problem, the notion of “enterprise search” would be inappropriate.
  • Small accounting firm. This company uses Microsoft Windows 7. The six person staff uses a “workgroup” method that is easy to set up and maintain. The Windows 7 user can browse the drives to which access has been granted by the part time system administrator. When a person needs to locate a document, the built in search function is used. The solution is good enough. I know that when Windows-centric, third party solutions were made known to the owner, the response was, “Windows 7 search is good enough.”
  • Large health care company with dozens of operating units. The company has been working to integrate certain key systems. The largest on-going project is deploying a electronic health care system. Each of the units has legacy search technology. The most popular search systems are those built into applications used every day. Database access is provided by these applications. One unit experimented with a Google Appliance and found that it was useful to the marketing department. Another unit has a RedDot content management system and has an Autonomy stub. The company has no plans, as I understand it, to make federated enterprise search a priority. There is no single reason. Other projects have higher priority and include a search function.

If my experience is representative (and I am not suggesting what I have encountered is what you will encounter), enterprise search is a tough sell. When I read this snippet, I was a bit surprised:

Enterprise search tools are expected to improve and that may improve uptake of the technology.  Steven Nicolaou, Principal Consultant at Microsoft, commented that “enterprise search products will become increasingly and more deeply integrated with existing platforms, allowing more types of content to be searchable and in more meaningful ways. It will also become increasingly commoditized, making it less of a dark art and more of a platform for discovery and analysis.”

What this means is that the company that provides “good enough” search baked into an operating system (think Windows) or an application (think about the search function in an electronic health record), there will be little room for a third party to land a deal in most cases.

The focus in enterprise search has been off the mark for many years. In fact, today’s vendors are recycling the benefits and features hawked 30 years ago. I posted a series of enterprise search vendor profiles at www.xenky.com/vendor-profiles. If you work through that information, you will find that the marketing approaches today are little more than demonstrations of recycling.

The opportunity in information access has shifted. The companies making sales and delivering solid utility to licensees are NOT the companies that beat the drum for customer support, indexing, and federated search.

The future belongs to information access systems that fit into mission critical business processes. Until the enterprise search vendors embrace a more innovative approach to information access, their future looks a bit cloudy.

In cooperation with Telestrategies, we may offer a seminar that talks about new directions in information access. The key is automation, analytics, and outputs that alert, not the old model of fiddling with a query until the index is unlocked and potentially useful information is available.

If you want more information about this invitation only seminar, write me at seaky2000 at yahoo dot com, and I will provide more information.

Stephen E Arnold, November 5, 2014

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