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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Easing Back Into Civilization, Looking for Signal Over Noise

Readers of this blog may have noticed that I took two weeks for a vacation. As I rolled around ideas for my "first post back from Scotland," something like A Statement Concerning the Wealth of Nations in an Online World came to mind. Then, less ambitiously, I debated posting all 159 holiday photos.

But what better way to ease back in than not to post at all? Instead, I offer you a link to Mona's latest article on Search Engine Land asking whether Microsoft and Yahoo can catch up to Google, and another link to the Valleywag nontroversy over AdSense's genesis, upon which I mustered a blog-like entry in the comments area... but I can't link directly to the site now that it's flooded with traffic, after this CNBC coverage blows the situation further out of proportion. Siding with Valleywag, the CNBC writer, Jim Goldman, notes that Google released a "copycat" version of Applied Semantics' product, five months after Applied Semantics came out with it. Goldman senses that this "story" won't die. I disagree...

As my article at the time emphasized/proves, Applied Semantics was far from the only company working on this type technology, and Google's purported "copycat effort" actually was being beta tested only two months after the Applied Semantics release. At no time did the Applied Semantics founders claim that Google was aping them; they assumed, as any technology company would, that obvious and good ideas are generally working in parallel in Silicon Valley. They only offered a criticism of Google's abilities in this area, shortly before being acquired by Google. The AS technology proved helpful (in my wild guesses, more helpful than some are letting on) in accelerating Google's product development in this area at an early stage, and of course the domain parking partnerships helped Google to snare valuable market share that was in Overture's camp. These developments constituted a starter's pistol signaling a rather frantic race for publisher contextual ad market share. In chasing hard after it, Google caught Yahoo off guard (did they hear the gun?) and built a surprising lead by ignoring "premium" inventory, automating like crazy, and going for the long tail.

It wasn't all good, that race, but looking back on it you can clearly see the continuity of the race as it now proceeds through another evolution with a horribly inflated but appropriate Google acquisition of DoubleClick.

If you look at the financials, notice how Google's revenues from AdSense as a proportion of overall Google ad revenues rose rapidly to nearly half (indicating overenthusiastic growth), before dropping back to about 37% today (indicating consolidation and higher traffic quality, in preparation for what I believe will be rapid growth back to 50% or so).

Meanwhile, back at the ranch: the "Wojcicki lied" angle is a non-starter and a non-story. At least they're not saying she said she invented the Internet.

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