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Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Milestones: The Monstrous and the Modest

Google's six. So they enter their seventh year as a publicly-traded company and aiming to become the "#1 portal" of the four main contenders, in spite of only recently admitting (or failing to deny) that they've become rather portal-like. Life-changing and desktop-dominating? Maybe soon. For now, Yahoo and MSN are still "bigger" in various ways, though smaller in search. AOL sees the handwriting on the wall.

This reminds me that just a few days ago, Traffick.com turned five. Cory Kleinschmidt had founded a tutorial site called PortalHub.com early in 1999, and by August, we were just a few (mostly virtual) pals discussing future world domination in an "intranet" we set up using Excite Communities. Early "beta" articles went up in August 1999. The first "official articles" were posted in September 1999. It's creepy to think that a review by non-aligned journalists on the web back then could help a company get another round of funding, or a merger get done.

Make no mistake, they were crazy times. One day, we were comparing online greeting card players as if it were a kind of "cool site of the day" type exercise. Before you knew it, one of those companies was swallowed up for something like $1 billion in stock. 'Twas irrationally exuberant.

For awhile there, many of our reviews and articles were posted in the online press areas of the reviewed companies. One of our friends in the biz (CEO of a vertical search company years ago) went to pitch his tech to a major media company in New York, and he told me that printed copies of my review were sitting in front of everyone at the boardroom table. I said "yeah, sure they were." He said "you've got to learn to take a compliment." Flattering but a bit scary! And always a privilege to be able to explain little-understood technologies and trends to anyone who might be listening, in spite of the complete lack of prestige outside our little corner of the world.

That corner of the world got bigger, and everyone got a bit older and wiser. Clearly, it wasn't all nonsense. Blue Mountain Arts wasn't worth $1 billion. Yahoo! overpaid significantly for Broadcast.com, Geocities, and more. The advertising market collapsed on them and the other portals. But in spite of it all, mostly due to the rebound in advertising (and most of the profits from that coming from search engine advertising), YHOO's now healthy as a horse, and valued at $40 billion. I can't help but be amazed by this.

We now do fewer articles, and focus more on earning a paycheck, but the blogging is still a blast. To longtime readers, your feedback, savvy, and wit has been more than we ever bargained for. We just wish we heard more from you, but we understand you have kids to put to bed and a mortgage to pay, too.

The portal play just won't die, much like those joke candles you can't blow out. See you tomorrow, GOOG and YHOO. You fought. You thought. You won.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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