Archive for the ‘Personalization’ Category

More on Facebook, Privacy & Data Mining

April 26, 2010

Here are two unrelated pieces on Facebook that I ran across nearly simultaneously:

The first is from the NY Times, about how high-school students and college applicants are trying to make it harder for colleges to find them on Facebook (using aliases), for fear of the adverse consequences of institutions knowing too much about them:

For high school students concerned with college acceptance, Facebook presents a challenge. It encourages making public every thought and every photo, an opportunity for posturing and bravado nearly irresistible to teenagers. But this impulse for display clashes with the need to appear circumspect and presentable to college admissions agents, who some high school guidance counselors have warned are likely vetting applicants by trolling the Web.

Whether admissions officers really do plumb Facebook is up for debate, said Dr. Frank C. Leana, a prominent independent college counselor in New York City whose services cost $1,000 (for a one-time consultation) to $9,000 (for ongoing counsel throughout the college process). His students believe they are being watched, he said, but “it’s really hard to know how accurate their suspicions are.”

One of the big pitches for the Open Graph is “making the Web less anonymous,” more transparent. But Facebook being the de facto identity management platform across the Internet is not so desirable to everyone, as the above article suggests. And young people do care about privacy it would appear — or at least that third parties not be able to access their information.

Real and open identity is good as an abstract matter until the “big brother effect” kicks in and others are passing judgment and denying jobs or college admissions, potentially because of one-too-many drunken party images on Facebook. While there’s no documentation of the latter, the fear is clearly present.

The second article, an interview of sales VP Mike Murphy by eMarketer, reveals some of Facebook’s ambitions surrounding data mining and ad targeting vis-a-vis the “Like” button. Here’s eMarketer’s summary conclusion of Murphy’s comments:

Whenever a person clicks to “like” something they see on the Web, that information will go into their Facebook profile and marketers will be able to use the information to target advertising within Facebook.

This is a key point: all off-site “Like” activity will factor into targeting on Facebook. In other words, Facebook is mining actions across the Internet for targeting on its site. Brilliant and/or creepy? A little of both I think.

What many (most) people don’t realize also is that “Liking” something across the Internet will enable marketers or publishers to push content and “publish into [users’] news feeds.” This requires prior approval but it may not be clear that people are signing up for an ongoing stream of information or marketing messages.


Yipit, Group Buying and SMBs

February 24, 2010

I recently wrote a short post about Groupon and the growing phenomenon of group buying online. Among the several companies I mentioned in the post was Yipit. I lumped the company in with several others as purveyors of local deals to consumers. Shortly thereafter I was contacted by the co-founders of Yipit (who wanted to clarify the nature of their service) and I had a fascinating conversation with them about the entire segment.

Rather than a direct competitor to these group buying sites the company aims to position itself as the “kayak of group buying.”

What that effectively means is that Yipit aggregates deals from many providers (there are a growing number; see list at bottom). The consumer-user selects the desired offer and clicks through to transact on the underlying third party site, in the same way that Kayak refers leads to airlines or hotels. Similarly Yipit takes a referral or affiliate fee for the lead — provided there’s a transaction that occurs.

The way that Yipit improves upon any one of these sites (e.g., Groupon) is that it brings together much more inventory (offers) than any one of these sites individually. Because of this, it allows users to select areas of interest and not receive offers that aren’t relevant. That has always been my experience with Groupon itself; the concept is great but there are lots of deals I’m not interested in:

The concept of group buying has been around since Mercata and the late 1990s. However in “act 1” of the Internet it never took off. Now it has momentum on the heels of the general growth of online coupons and social networks more broadly. Consumers love deals and these sites only charge businesses — mostly SMBs — if enough people show up and a sale is made, collectively speaking:

The offers are always time-sensitive and require a commitment/purchase up front by the user. And the structure of the offer creates competition to ensure that the minimum required volume is met.

Each of the sites that Yipit “indexes” are effectively telephone sales channels, which negotiate these deals with local merchants. Yipit then delivers, or helps deliver, traffic to those individual sites.

I was told by Yipit that where there were once just two or three of group buying sites, now there are dozens of them. The barriers to entry are very low: a wordpress blog, a telephone sales and some email software.

Another fascinating thing to consider is that the risk to the merchant is almost zero; SMBs only pay when the group deal is secured. Thus it becomes potentially easier to sell something like this (especially by a “no name” company that the SMB hasn’t heard of) than more conventional “advertising.”

There’s no “ad budget” that gets tapped; the commission is a slice of sales. Consequently there may be more money for these types of programs than for “advertising.” The notion that “SEM funds itself” is one of the myths of paid search, which is especially a myth in the case of small business. However that is in fact true in this case.

If these group buying sites develop enough momentum there’s a kind of parallel universe of SMB promotions that might arise, where the value proposition is more direct and transparent to the merchant and the risk much less than buying clicks or even calls in some sense. While this is clearly not a model and channel that’s going to work for plumbers or lawyers, it probably works for a much broader group of local businesses than one might think.

Here are the sites (or most of the sites) that Yipit draws upon to serve up geographically relevant deals and offers:

Do you think “grouponing” is a fad or a phenomenon that is here to stay in some sense?

Facebook Default Privacy: Everyone

December 10, 2009

Facebook has simplified its privacy settings but the default settings, which will be “chosen” by many or most, expose almost everything to the public. The cynics will say this is about APIs and better competing with Twitter going forward. Here’s what they look like:

Here’s what I then did:

There’s much more discussion on Techmeme, in particular from the EFF.

To Facebook’s credit the company is forcing you to confront these settings very directly when you sign in and not simply making an announcement (that many wouldn’t see) and compelling users go find the privacy controls.


Related: Also this little blurb is from a quick note from Mark Mahaney at Citi about some trends on FB:

Facebook Shows Hyper Local Targetting Ability  A trend that Facebook is seeing is more users are asking their networks for recommendations, like, “iPhone or Droid?” or “Any recommendations for Chinese Food in San Francisco?” Search for items in Facebook should eventually allow users to sift through relevant recommendations. Facebook can help a camping company or outdoor equipment retailer target all people in SF who went to Stanford, and showed interest in kayaking or camping as an example of hyperlocal marketing.

Within this quick set of comments is the dual future of FB and local: recommendations engine for consumers, ad platform for SMBs. In some ways FB might be much more, MUCH more “disruptive” (to use the overused word) to YP than Google has been.

Placecast Gains $5 Million in Series B Funding

November 18, 2009

1020 Placecast has raised $5 million in Series B funding “from a group of high-profile investors including Quatrex Capital and current investors Onset Ventures and Voyager Capital.” The company is going to grow its LBS mobile platform efforts accordingly.

The press release says that the funds “will be used to accelerate progress on the company’s opt-in location-triggered marketing capability, which enables brands to engage with consumers via mobile phone based on the user’s specific location.”

Placecast has been doing a terrific research/anecdotal series entitled “The Alert Shopper” about how people shop and think about media in relation to shopping. Below is a video that illustrates their opt-in mobile marketing approach:

Recently in a survey conducted by Harris Interactive, on behalf of 1020 Placecast, large percentages of respondents said they highly receptive to mobile advertising in the form of alerts after an opt-in to receive them.

These data show why SMS marketing will never be supplanted by apps, search or mobile Web. Each has a role to play but SMS alerts will be a central part of mobile marketers’ customer acquisition and loyalty strategies for some time to come. Expect more integration of these mobile ad/marketing efforts in the future however.

MapQuest Local Adds Twitter Feed

December 11, 2008

I got off the phone with Mark Law, product VP for MapQuest, a few minutes ago. He and I discussed the new additions to MapQuest local content, including Jobs from AOL Careers (via CareerBuilder) and a widget that offers a local Twitter feed:




The site also recently added local events content from When (an AOL events site powered by Zvents). 

The Twitter feed is interesting because there’s lots of value “buried” in Twitter around local recommendations that is difficult to find or extract. This widget won’t necessarily do that. But Law painted a scenario where would-be tourists can identify local experts and make contact with them through this widget and Twitter.  I’m sure other use cases will emerge in time. 

In addition Law informed me that in the 20 days since AOL launched My MapQuest, the site has 1 million users that have signed up for the service. That’s impressive because it flies in the face of the conventional wisdom that people won’t actively personalize sites. It is still a small percentage of MapQuest’s almost 50 million users so we’ll see how and whether it continues. But its a fast start for the new feature. 

Here’s my original post on MapQuest Local when it launched in early September. 


Another interesting thing that Law and I discussed is the “packaging” of some of MapQuest Local’s content under the concept of “staycation,” responding to the recession and the increasing reluctance to travel. 

Mixed Outlook: What Should Yahoo! Do?

January 30, 2008

Here’s a lengthy post I put together over at SEL that goes through the earnings release and related announcements, including the 1,000 layoffs:

Despite the hopes of many and rumors that Yahoo would post “strong” earnings, Q4 2007 results (.pdf) were mixed and net income was down from a year ago. In addition, CEO Jerry Yang said the company faced “headwinds” in 2008 and offered weak guidance but promised a return to growth in 2009. Investors were unhappy and stock was down at one point 10 percent in after-hours trading (this morning it has recovered).

Here’s my “editorial” view:

Some articles this morning are highly critical of the company arguing that the layoffs offer cost savings but not much more and that Yahoo hasn’t really articulated a vision or offered products that will enable it to regain momentum. Mobile is an area of strength for the company but not yet a meaningful revenue producer.

There may well be a distorting disconnect between the Silicon Valley culture of “buzz” and novelty vs. the larger society, which is interested in utilitarian products and services that meet ordinary and practical needs. Yahoo should avoid worrying about keeping up with the Twitters and instead focus on building products that help people accomplish practical and immediate objectives in their daily lives. This still includes mobile and social media but not necessarily things like “Yahoo Live.” In addition, Yahoo appears to be dropping the ball in local, which has historically been an industry-leading product.

It’s easy for me (and others) to sit back and critique Yahoo! But in making this last set of statements I’m trying a bit more to put myself in Jerry Yang’s shoes. Yahoo! does need one or two “sexy” new products to get the press interested but I think there’s a majority audience for whom Yahoo! could be the most vital and complete site on the Internet.

Yahoo! isn’t going to gain much on Google in search in the near future. But it has to continue to invest in search for many reasons. I think that Yahoo! should make its home page more customizable — more like My Yahoo! — for users who want to take advantage of that option. And mobile is an area it can leverage to strengthen brand loyalty. Yahoo is actually ahead of Google in mobile in many respects, but the Google brand right now has greater strength among power users and early adopters.

As people become more and more overwhelmed with information, Yahoo! is in a strong position to be a leading “trusted content” source for most users. But it does still need a “social center” to pull together some of its disparate properties and content assets. That could potentially be done through a revamping of Yahoo! Groups, through personalization (including the My Yahoo-ification of the home page) and mail (as is being contemplated).

Yahoo! has set expectations now that 2008 will be a mixed year but 2009 will represent a return to strong growth. I think AT&T is the buyer or a major investor if Yang & Co. fail to execute. By the same token executing in a relatively mature company of 14,000 people is tough. But if IBM and Kodak can turn around, so can Yahoo!

What would you do?

iGoogle Rising

December 23, 2007

iGoogleTechCrunch has some nice charts around comScore data that compare the performance and growth of various Google product offerings. Gmail and Maps continue to qualify as successes but, as Google has said several times, its “fastest growing product” is its personal start page iGoogle. (Also very striking in the data is how poorly Google shopping has relatively fared [-73%].)

iGoogle (like competitors MyYahoo!, NetVibes, PageFlakes, MyAOL,, among others) is mainstreaming RSS and news feeds by repackaging the whole concept in a much more user-friendly way. Yet that’s perhaps the least interesting dimension of these products. Here’s a short piece I wrote back in Feb (before the phenomenal rise of Facebook) about these “personal start pages” and their potential, longer-term implications.

They sit at the center of a number of very interesting Internet trends: widget distribution, “universal search,” social media and personalization among them. However MySpace and Facebook are effectively trying to become the new (personalized) portals and actually compete with these start pages in that respect. But the start pages are more flexible and useful. Indeed, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see an evolution of Facebook toward the feel and functionality of these start pages eventually.

As one aside, I’ve spoken with Enquiro’s Gord Hotchkiss about how iGoogle allows the company to preserve its “classic Google” home page and spartan aesthetic for the majority but also to provide a “richer” experience for others who take advantage of iGoogle. There’s a kind of “segmentation” strategy here in a way, as people start to expect more structured and efficient content delivery from search engines. It also makes having Google as your homepage more useful than otherwise would be the case.

Google, as a general matter, is trying to knit together its “search, ads and apps” more closely. To that end the company unified its profile system recently. iGoogle has the capacity to be a kind of “hub” that also helps unify products and content on Google (with implications for search and advertising as well, including local content). These personal pages are also a template for a shared desktop-mobile experience that will be very “sticky.” Both Google and AOL are pursuing that to varying degrees.

Yahoo had a big headstart and lead with MyYahoo and until recently has neglected the product to its detriment in my view.

It will be interesting to see where and how far Google takes iGoogle in the coming year or two.


Newspapers are using the Netvibes “ecosystem” as a branded syndication tool. I’m not sure how successful this has been for them but it’s a fascinating concept not unlike Facebook platform, if less well known.

Why Is BabyCenter So Interesting?

August 6, 2007

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.After what seemed like months of email back and forth, I finally spoke with Tina Sharkey, Chairman (so the bio says) and CEO of (owned by Johnson & Johson). She was formerly Senior Vice President of Network & Community Programming for America Online and so knows social media as well as anybody. We had a free ranging conversation about the history of BabyCenter and its future direction and strategy.

From the outside, BabyCenter looks like a straightforward content destination for expecting and new parents. Although I’ve written numerous times about the “Momster segment,” the readers of this blog might not find BabyCenter that interesting on a “drive by.” But from my point of view, especially after my conversation with Sharkey, it’s one of the most interesting plays online.

Why is that? Let me count the ways:

  1. It has an established, strong consumer brand and a high degree of trust and loyalty
  2. It taps one of the most important demographics – if not the most important demographic – online for commercial purposes: moms
  3. It has a very large audience (7+ million uniques) and dominates its category
  4. The site is about to relaunch with a new platform (here’s a preview)
  5. Based on the description and functionality I heard about, the new site will offer one of the most impressive personalization (passive and active) platforms online
  6. It may become one of the most effective community sites (based on engagement) in the next year (offering blogging, photo sharing, profiles, etc.). Think of it as “Yelp for Moms” (Sharkey’s phrase)
  7. It’s building an ad network (think FM for small publishers and serious bloggers thematically tied into the BabyCenter demo)
  8. It is already a very effective e-commerce site and powerful marketing channel for brands seeking to reach the demographic (the ad network will expand its reach)
  9. It’s an email marketing powerhouse with open rates that exceed 40%
  10. It’s expanding internationally in a very aggressive way
  11. Because it’s a trusted site and because the community tools are being beefed up, it will become an even more effective WOM recommendations engine for local businesses (retail and services)

Among the things that were impressive to me are the levels of engagement and loyalty that this site has. Most local sites or comparison engines that offer reviews do so in an atmosphere of relative anonymity. But there’s a virtuous circle of engagement and participation going on with BabyCenter that’s almost unique and it’s fascinating.

As a basic matter of fact moms want to share knowledge and experience with each other. As Sharkey described, they go from being novices to mentors and advice givers to other new moms. Grateful for the help they received they want to give back. But most fascinating is that chat and other tools on the site will allow people to contact one another. Let’s say I see recommendations for a pediatrician or particular children’s toys I’ll be able to contact the reviewers and get more detail. That might well extend to digital video cameras and other “once removed” products and services. I might choose to find a local painter here rather than on a less trusted, more generic site for obvious reasons.

That sort of dynamic isn’t really happening elsewhere. If I got to restaurant review site X or product review site Y or hotel review site Z I’m reading reviews but not able to talk to anyone about what they’ve said. But on BabyCenter people will be able to contact each other and get more depth.

These tools, the trust and levels of engagement and participation make the community potentially much richer and more dynamic than 90%+ of what’s out there. And there’s an “organic” dimension to what’s being conveyed here – moms helping other moms. There’s little or zero need to offer monetary or ego-based incentives to participate. The motivation is there; the site merely serves to facilitate communication and exchange. And the community and participation reinforces and supports the brand.

Thus, upon second glance, BabyCenter sits, one might say, at the center of some of the most interesting trends online: verticals/targeted audiences, community and (potentially) local.


Related: MediaPost reports (briefly) on a Hispanic targeted version of BabyCenter.

ShopLocal Enhances SmartMedia Platform

July 26, 2007

ShopLocal has announced a new, enhanced version of its Smart Media advertising units. The ads are highly interactive with product inventory, brands, maps and local store information. Here’s a sample ad from CompUSA and one from BestBuy:

ShopLocal SmartMedia

These ads are similar in some respects to what Yahoo! has announced but yet to roll out with SmartAds, which offer dynamic/customized display advertising and represent the future of graphical advertising at Yahoo!. AdMission Corp. has a similar product with its Spotlight Ads that combines branding and local inventory information.

These types of dynamic display ads seek to capitalize on advertiser interest in online brand advertising but integrate direct response elements to improve performance and overcome traditional “banner blindness.” Display ads, including video, are the fastest growing category of Internet advertising and especially appealing to brand marketers shifting budget online (click to enlarge):

“Which medium will represent the largest percentage increase in spending this year for your brand (or your top client)?”

Brand advertising

Source: BusinessWeek Future of Advertising Survey (2007)

Calendar and the ‘Widgetization’ of Google

June 7, 2007

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Google yesterday added more calendars to its public calendar directory. This becomes another distribution channel on Google. There’s also a sharing feature built in: as part of the underlying functionality of Google Calendar, people can share calendars with one another.

The bigger picture is that Google now has desktop Gadgets, Gadgets for iGoogle, Mapplets for Google Maps and third party calendar adds for Calendar. These are all Widgets with Google as platform and distribution channel for content. But it’s also Google as Internet dashboard and content management system for individuals. Accordingly, this is part of a larger personalization strategy at Google.

Yahoo has Konfabulator, which offers desktop widgets and has similar mashups capabilities, but it’s not moving quite as aggressively or coherently on a “widget” or applications strategy.

The New Ask 3D: Visually Richer

June 5, 2007

Ask Homepage

Ask relaunched tonight with a bold new UI and multimedia content.

I have an extensive (though still incomplete) discussion at Search Engine Land. But what about local? Much of it is handled through referrals and hand-offs to Ask City. But the site does a nice job (through IP targeting) with locally ambiguous queries like “attorney“or “plumber.” There’s also a nice local events integration that appears in the third column when triggered by the right query (see, e.g., “blues“)

Beyond all the features and functionality, the fact that it’s visually appealing makes it more fun to use. Play with the skins, you’ll see what I mean. (It’s 3 a.m. and that’s all I can muster.)

To save the day, here are more thoughtful remarks from John Battelle and Gary Price (of Ask). Battelle spends a good deal of time comparing Ask to Apple. While the comparison is justified in lots of ways, the way that it has yet to be justified is in Ask’s “algorithm” marketing campaign.

As Microsoft’s Don Dodge previously argued (and TechCrunch reminds me) every market share point is worth a billion dollars or more. I think the site is very innovative and may be able to gain some momentum and new usage. At a minimum, it will grab more usage frequency from “casual” Ask users. The interesting thing to see will be whether there’s any new usage.

Don’t underestimate the power and lure of aesthetics.

What StumbleUpon Says about Search

April 18, 2007

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There are two news items today that speak to a similar theme: the limitations of search. Search is a remarkably powerful tool and has become the de facto way people find their way around the Internet (bookmarks are dead, though RSS/feeds are on the rise). But it has numerous limitations as a content discovery tool.

Here are the items:

Item number 1: eBay is reportedly acquiring StumbleUpon (per TechCrunch).

Item number 2: Google is introducing “queryless search” (personal recommendations based on search history and group behavior for registered Google users).

As Chris Sherman points out, Google’s personalized recommendations is similar to StumbleUpon. Google in introducing this is seeking to offer a way for users to discover content that doesn’t involve their active “searching” for it. In the frenzy surrounding search as a kind of metaphor for everything what has been lost is a kind of “serendipitous” discovery of content. This is like the difference between reading the print newspaper (where you “browse”) and an online newspaper (where you go right to specific sections or stories: “search”).

Social media also figure in here (and as part of StumbleUpon) as a mechanism to compensate for some of the perceived “deficiencies” of search. In StumbleUpon the community surfaces sites and content that you might never have discovered on your own but are very interesting and potentially worthwhile.

Think also of the “most emailed” news stories on a newspaper website (e.g., the NY Times). This is an enormously popular feature and helps people discover content they might not have seen themselves. It’s the community in action.

We need search as a tool to get us from here to there online or for quick information lookups. But we also need alternative mechanisms to help us discover content and information we otherwise might not have known.

After all, I don’t know what I don’t know.

MyYahoo 2.0

March 9, 2007

MyYahoo Beta

MyYahoo! launched its upgrade today (apparently early). Michael Arrington has a nice overview of the features and changes. In generally I like it quite a bit. As with Answers, Yahoo! is adding social features (sharing and one-click adoption), which is very smart and necessary to keep pace with the competition. Netvibes and Pageflakes have similar capabilities.

If you’re a registered Yahoo! user, Local is baked in. There was a Local/Maps module in my beta upgrade.

As Arrington points out, the site now more closely resembles the Yahoo! home page (left nav in particular). Unfortunately, there’s a big tile ad in the upper right. Netvibes’ Tariq Krim steadfastly refuses to have this sort of display advertising on his site.

I have long believed that notwithstanding its reported 50 million users MyYahoo! is a strategic asset that Yahoo! has allowed to languish. Unlike any other site (save Google), it has the capacity to truly mainstream newsreaders/RSS. And this upgrade should prevent some defections to competitors that might have happened had Yahoo! failed to make these changes.

But the real opportunity is not simply to hold ground and prevent “defections” but to truly mainstream RSS and personalization. Netvibes has 10 million users according to the company, but those are admittedly “early adopters.” And Pageflakes CEO Dan Cohen and I yesterday discussed what it might take to mainstream personal start pages.

To that end, the new “packaged pages” on MyYahoo! go some distance in this direction by making it easy (like sharing) for people to customize and add content without too much effort.

I think there’s a very interesting opportunity here, which is partly about community and sharing and party about marketing and messaging.


Read/Write Web features a response to the new MyYahoo! from Pageflakes’ Dan Cohen (who managed MyYahoo! and worked on GoogleIG). TechCrunch has a post showing traffic figures (per comScore) for these pages.

My.Netscape Joins the Crowd

March 6, 2007

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Netscape is synonymous in my mind with missed opportunity. After AOL bought the company it totally neglected it and IE ate all its remaining market share. Since that time the Netscape brand has been “reinvented” several times, as a low-cost ISP, a Digg clone and now a personalized start page.

Indeed, a new My.Netscape is joining an increasingly crowded field of personalized homepages: Netvibes, Google IG, MyYahoo, Pageflakes, MSFT’s Modules and widgets oh my!

On a more serious note, I previously wrote about the potential of these pages here. In particular, I’m waiting to see the My.Yahoo! redesign, which is promised. Yahoo!’s delay may have cost them a potential opportunity.

‘The Daily You’ from Pegasus News

February 15, 2007

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Mike Orren, President of Pegasus News, sent me a release that went out today announcing the launch of “The Daily You,” a personalized news service for readers:

Today Pegasus News launched The Daily You™, an individually customized version of its local and neighborhood news and information service. This free service allows Pegasus News’ registered users to read about and comment on local news and events that are specifically tailored to their interests.

“From the day we started planning Pegasus News, we knew we wanted to create an environment where you can get news from your kid’s school in the same context as your NBA scores and where you can easily find a local singer-songwriter without having to dig past a touring band of a genre to which you’ve never listened,” said Pegasus News president and co-founder Mike Orren.

The idea is to mix customization with general news and information and then serve highly targeted ads against the personalized content.

This is one version of the concept of personalized news that was floated in the early days of the Internet. The other version is, of course, RSS and news readers. However, those disaggregate and reassemble content from third party sources. Pegasus News personalization exists within a controlled environment that makes monetizing and “behaviorally targeting” the content somewhat easier than in RSS.

However, the challenge is getting people to actually customize their content.


Mike Orren below corrects me and notes, “Readers do not have to configure anything to make it work.” That’s smart Mike.

Netvibes and Its Kin

February 10, 2007

One narrow view of Netvibes is that it’s a “news reader.” The company describes itself as a “Web 2.0 homepage.” But Netvibes and its competitors (including MyYahoo) are much more interesting than those descriptions suggest, especially in terms of how they may evolve and how that may impact search as the “front door to the Internet.”

I’ve written more on this at Search Engine Land.


Here’s more from the WSJ (sub req’d) and Wired.

Google Personalization and Local

February 5, 2007

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Danny Sullivan has an extremely detailed and thorough post on Google’s stepped up efforts toward search personalization. The basic idea is that Google’s collection of data on your search behavior and history (unless you turn it off) will yield more personally relevant results over time.

Putting aside the legitimate privacy concerns, which Danny goes into, this will also theoretically help Google with more locally targeted results — eventually. And if you signed up for Checkout, Google has your address and can use that information to disambiguate location. (So does Yahoo! and MSFT if you’ve registered).

Thus the problem of users inputting location information (or the failure to do so) will ultimately be solved by a combination of search history/behavior/registration and IP targeting.

Yikes: ‘Web 3.0’ Term Used w/o Irony

November 12, 2006 John Markoff piece in Sunday’s NY Times (reg. req’d) resurrects the elusive goal of the “semantic Web” with a bit of a twist, and un-self consciously calls it “Web 3.0.” Nonetheless the article is interesting, suggesting how users (without knowing it) and a range of companies (e.g., Radar Networks) are actively working to make it easier to retrieve more relevant information online (Local is the example used by Markoff):

[T]he Holy Grail for developers of the semantic Web is to build a system that can give a reasonable and complete response to a simple question like: “I’m looking for a warm place to vacation and I have a budget of $3,000. Oh, and I have an 11-year-old child.”

This is the Internet as a globally accessible database that can be accessed in an intuitive way by regular people. In a certain way this all comes down to two things: helping machines get more information out and in front of people and query disambiguation — understanding user intent.

But of course nothing ever goes exactly as planned and this concept has been around a long time. Clearly information retrieval will get better and more complete over time. When it comes to local, there’s still a tremendous amount of data that needs to be “uploaded” and organized before Markoff’s question can be fully answered — though an experienced human can answer the question now.

One of the key developments for the next-generation of  Internet services and companies — whatever it and they look like — is dealing with the paradox of choice. There’s already too much information online, yet also not enough (as with local). What I need is not 100 or 1,000 new choices, but 10-15 (at most) that are right for me or otherwise meet my criteria.

Monday Miscellany

November 6, 2006

Yahoo! Shopping redesigns with a range of features. Here’s more from Search Engine Journal and further explanation from the Yahoo! Shopping Blog.

New search engine, Collarity, with a mix of personalization and “social search” capabilities, launches. Here’s more from iMedia. What’s almost immediately clear is that the differentiators are too involved for mainstream users. I’ll look deeper later.

Matt Marshall’s VentureBeat covers video “contextual” ad-insertion company BrightRoll.

Comcast has announced plans to add user-generated video content to its service. Here’s more from the WSJ (sub req’d) and LostRemote.

Tabs on Personalized Homepages

September 15, 2006

Last night I was using the Google personalized homepage, where I have some newsfeeds, and noticed that there was a new “add a tab” function. This duplicates the MyYahoo “add page” capability. Barry Schwartz has some screen captures.

This identical feature also exists on In fact, and Google’s PH pages very closely resemble each other.