Tag Archives: Yahoo

Google-Digg mismatch is no surprise

So, in the past several days we learned that Google had made a feint at Digg, then passed. Looked at one way it’s a bit surprising, given Digg’s raw power and extreme brand recognition among the Web’s tastemakers. On the other hand, it may have been a good decision. After all, Google can buy a company, but it can’t buy an attitude.

Sure, any big, lumbering company would like to get its cool on by acquiring a relatively edge Web player like Digg. But the truth is, it’s seldom a good idea–because big companies digest little ones. Sure, the big company can acquire assets–and even Digg’s prodigious traffic and influence–but I doubt it would preserve the culture that makes Digg compelling. Hey, look at the social bookmarking sites that have sprung up since…they’re just not the same.

By the way, in case anyone still has an image of Google as scrappy and innovative, let’s give that a rest. Sure, I remember when Google was the Next Big Thing and full of vibrant energy. But those days are gone, baby. Google may still pay for people’s lunches, but it’s as corporate as they get.

Hey, I’d argue that in some ways, Google is the biggest potential challenger to monolithic Microsoft (more explanation in a future column). What else explains Microsoft’s clumsy pursuit of search dominance by attempting to snag Yahoo? — Anne

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iGoogle, not Yahoo, is the portal to watch

Folks, I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing about the collapse of Microsoft’s grand plan to buy into Yahoo’s cutting-edge 1998-era business model. As for me, I’ve been puzzled throughout the whole MicroHoo spectacle. After all, who gives a damn about traditionally-structured content portals these days?

Rather than watch MS and YHOO duke it out, I’m paying very close attention to the evolution of iGoogle. Probably because it’s not being promoted vigorously, iGoogle has gotten comparatively little attention from the IT and search pundits of the world. But I believe that could change quickly. In truth, Google is building a new, vibrant business model in plain sight, quietly perfecting its approach gadget by gadget and application by application while downplaying this effort’s strategic importance.

Is iGoogle revolutionary in and of itself? Not at all. The widgets and content the service offers aren’t miracles of technical sophistication, and for any one of the functions it offers (say, Calendar) there’s lots of competition available elsewhere on the Web. Besides, the other search majors offer customization, too. It’s just that they don’t do it as well.

What makes Google special is the simple, clean execution it brings to user-driven content display–which includes an amazingly flexible drag-and-drop feature for arranging widgets on the page, countless options for enhancing the content and a range of useful features which can easily be lumped together.

Taken together, these interface design options are far more powerful than they sound. For example, I’ve found that having the freedom to put Google mail and the Google calendar smack dab on top of one another, as I do, is the perfect way for me to stay on top of my life. It’s not rocket science, but it gets the job done better than just about any other approach I’ve tried.

Of course, if I didn’t already use a bunch of Google apps, having access to them through iGoogle wouldn’t be much of a benefit. But like most Web workers, I use lots of Google services already, so Google’s got me where they want me. Ultimately, iGoogle gives the search giant complete ownership of my workflow. (Whoops — did I just say that? iGoogle is scarier than I thought!)

The endgame, ultimately, will come when iGoogle begins to offer you access to proprietary features, such as Google-hosted personal health records. (Trust me, they’re already working on the latter–I saw a demo at a recent trade show, in fact.) When you begin to rely on iGoogle to control your personal health data, read your e-mail, get directions and maps, display your carefully chosen list of news, recipes and gossip and keep you abreast of your local weather, all ordered on the page in a way that you like best, Google now has you body and soul.

So, go ahead, Microsoft, and pursue portals or even a Facebook or MySpace buyout. That’s all well and good. But if you guys are the insanely brilliant people they say you are, you might want to think about Google’s strategy for completely seducing users–and what your role should be in a world where all content is widgetized and used on demand.

Sure, iGoogle’s still young now, but it’s going to kick butt when it grows up. How will you respond? — Anne

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Facebook is a local search threat

Let me preface the following by saying that while I’m not a local search expert, I did pretend to be one on TV for a while, while doing an extended marketing communications consulting gig for the cool local search peeps at Localeze.com. (Hi guys!)

Now, with that consumer warning in mind, check this out. Having poked around Facebook’s advertising options for a week or so, I’ve drawn the conclusion that they may be competitors in the local search space before you know it. Specifically, if you look at their free “Facebook Pages” advertising option, you’ll see that it allows businesses to offer as much information on themselves as many basic Yellow Pages or directory listings.

To see what I mean, visit my sample Facebook page, “My Business.” If you’ll check out the “Information” section, you’ll see that I’ve entered a dummy address and one set of business hours just to illustrate my point.  When I set things up, Facebook collected this information into a back-end database. Given this set-up, Facebook’s almost certainly capable of indexing local business data and spitting the information out in the way, say, Yahoo Local does when it’s ready. 

Don’t get me wrong, Yahoo Local and its ilk are way, way ahead of Facebook in this regard, as they’ve already developed beautiful local search interfaces, amassed tons of local reviews and integrated mapping, tag clouds, sophisticated business classification schemes and other cool functions. 

More importantly, to my knowledge Facebook entries aren’t currently searchable from the outside Web, which limits their current value despite the social network’s huge size and reach (69 million current reasonably engaged users at last count). That’s certainly a large obstacle.

Still, I don’t think a company with Facebook’s clout and resources will be held back by technical issues when they’re ready to fight for local business/search market share. All they’ll have to do is figure out how to monetize the pages effectively, and you know what, I’m pretty sure that they will.

Watch out, local search folks! Facebook’s a’ comin, mark my words.

Like what you see in What Matters Online? Want to stay up to date on the latest in Web 2.0, social media and old-school interactive marketing? Get notified of our latest updates by e-mail or RSS. I will never sell or exchange your information, and I won’t deluge your inbox — I promise!

MicroHoo would be less powerful than FaceSpace

I know that at present, the odds of Facebook and MySpace merging are about up there with my grandmother running off with the paperboy.  Murdoch give up control? The Facebook guys let go of their potential billion-dollar buyout possibilities? I don’t think so–not now, anyway.

Still, with Microsoft (MSFT) looming over Yahoo(YHOO) and threatening to swallow it, I’ve been thinking about who the real power brokers are online. And I’ve concluded that a social media mega-power combination (FaceSpace? MyBook?) would have advantages that a Microsoft plus Yahoo teaming couldn’t duplicate, billions in assets or no.

For one thing, if the two combined their social maps–allowing people to connect their friends far more readily–it would expotentially increasing the value of each  connection through network effects.

Then, of course, there’s the plain fact that advertisers are stampeding toward the social media networks, while growing disgusted with branding/CPM deals that characterize the Yahoo era. “Advertisers are increasingly shifting ad dollars to social networking sites from portal sites,” notes Debra Aho Williamson, a senior analyst with eMarketer, which predicts that the networking sites will nab $1.3 billion in advertising this year alone. 

This just makes sense. After all, where would you rather place an ad–in an environment where you have a broad idea of a consumer’s interests (portal) or a very detailed picture of their associations, habits, interests and more?  It’s no contest.

I’m already tired of hearing about MicroHoo. Let’s face it–since the dawn of MSN, Microsoft has been trying to “get it” about consumer Web culture, but still remains a second-string player when it comes to agility and appeal. Bring on FaceSpace!