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Sunday, June 29, 2003

New Traffick Article:

Groundhog Day (Or, Towards Reflective Equilibrium in Web Metrics)

Like any game, 80% of web marketing is fundamentals, but the rest is instinct.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Saturday, June 28, 2003

Google Toolbar has Gaggle of New Features

Sadly, my browser of choice, NetCaptor, is incompatible with the Google Toolbar (actually, it's vice versa). But, the Google Toolbar 2.0 beta is loaded with cool new features that make other programs practically irrelevant, including:

* A pop-up window blocker
* A form filling feature
* A "BlogThis" feature to enable quick blogging of URLs with Google's newly acquired Blogger tool (which Traffick has been using for years)
* A brand-new options panel for even easier management of the plethora of features offered by the toolbar.

Eventually, the Google Toolbar will be so advanced, it'll practically be its own web browser. I've predicted this before, and I still believe that one day Google will launch its own web browser and take the search/browser wars to Microsoft's own back yard.

You don't think the big G is going to take Microsoft's assault on them lying down, do ya?

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Overture Content Match: Incremental Change at Best

Overture has announced a program called Content Match that will place advertisers' keyword-targeted ads next to closely-matching content pages ("such as articles"). The program is being piloted on MSN, and advertisers are automatically opted in.

Content matching really isn't new for Overture. They've been doing this for some time, particularly with their partner Yahoo. (Our colleague Ed Kohler noticed his own ad coming up rather curiously near some search results on Yahoo's Launch.com music service.)

The most promising aspect of Content Match is a sign that Overture is going to let advertisers opt out of forms of traffic they don't want - functionality in which they've shown nary a glimmer of interest in the past. Here's what they say:

"Turning Content Match On and Off

"You can turn Content Match "On" or "Off" at any time on your Account Summary page.

"When an advertiser turns off Content Match, the next highest bidder on a specific keyword will move into the higher display position, but will not pay a higher click charge.
Turning off Content Match will not affect your traditional paid search listings.
You can turn Content Match back on at any time and start getting more traffic. "

Here's the problem: when you go to that part of the Overture interface, the indicator that Content Match is "on" is not currently being displayed. Thus there is no way to turn it off. Maybe that feature will be up tomorrow, but it seems irresponsible to roll out a new feature without the opt-out already in place.

One can't help but be curious why Google and Overture are making so much noise about content-targeted or contextual advertising when their bread and butter is search? Recall that Google announced earlier this week a content targeting partnership with Mapquest, a wholly-owned subsidiary of AOL (a company Google already has a major partnership with to serve search results and Google AdWords).

We know that many advertisers want more traffic from their existing accounts, but the focus on this sideline seems exaggerated of late. My hypothesis is that these dueling announcements are more for the benefit of distribution partners or potential partners (especially the big portals) than they are for the benefit of advertisers. It's a case of "look at what we can do... look, we can match ads to content and help you drive revenue" and "oh yeah, well we can do that too... look at us!"

As always, advertisers are advised to investigate ROI tracking technologies that are sophisticated enough to distinguish between content matching and regular PPC traffic. Don't take any claims about traffic quality at face value: track your conversions.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Monday, June 23, 2003

New Traffick Article:

For those keeping score:

Second Annual Online Infinite Regression Awards.

What this country really needs is a good $9.99 back-scratcher, and of course more Dave-Barry-wannabe humorists.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




You Will Listen to My Every Command

It was only a matter of time. Just received this note from a colleague:

"Andrew,

"I now know the brainwashing is complete. Today, I was writing a
proposal to a client and I spelled the word "traffic" as "traffick" in the
proposal.

" ;-) "

But really, that's nothing. You should see the steamy letter just sent to us by Kylie Minogue:

"So many of you have sent me birthday wishes for my 35th on May 28th. I thank you all for remembering and for all the kind words. I like to draw my birthday out for as long as possible so this really helped!"

(OK, that was actually from her website, but it's pretty personal if you ask us.)

After rambling on aimlessly about her studio session and meeting an eight-year-old girl who admires her limo and tries on her high heels, Kylie concludes the letter with:

"Bye x"

Phew, is it getting hot in here or what?

Posted by Andrew Goodman




How to Pay $5 a Click Without Even Trying

In search engine marketing, data wins. Many small businesses already know that paid inclusion in indexes like Inktomi, FAST, and Ask Jeeves/Teoma is overhyped, because the interfaces for these services give them accurate data about how little traffic they're generating.

I won't deny that inclusion *can* work well - especially for bigger retailers with a large catalog - but I suspect that for many small businesses, paid inclusion flops more often than not. I just checked a couple of the pages I included in Inktomi and Ask Jeeves - each received a total of six clicks in the past year. Hardly worth the trouble.

On the other hand, the two URL's listed in Inktomi for this site, traffick.com, received a total of 3,000 clicks. A good deal no matter how you slice it. But it proves the point. These are content pages. Search engines prefer content pages, it seems. These pages also do well in Google.

It's not a scientific study or anything, but until I see paid inclusion services giving me and my clients the kind of control (and/or solid numbers) we get from keyword-targeted pay-per-click advertising, I'm not going to change my mind on the issue.

I'm just glad Google never went to paid inclusion. I believe the model is fraught with problems, including the possibility that larger retailers can buy their way into an unspoken "higher priority category" than the other ordinary businesses who take the trouble to submit.

If and when Yahoo and Inktomi team together on a paid inclusion program, it will be impossible to ignore. But what kinds of games will be played with it? Will the ordinary business get to play on a level playing field, or will bulk inclusion rule the day (and distort the accuracy of search results)?

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Sunday, June 22, 2003

Saints be Praised... the MSN Messenger 6 Beta is Here

Finally, upgrade-starved instant messaging folks are able to satisfy their urge to download the latest and greatest. Yes, MSN Messenger 6 beta version is out. Celebrate good times, come on!

Get it here

I'm not sure why I care about this, but for some reason, I do. I like new versions. I like new functionality, even if I don't need it. Somehow MSN suckered me into downloading the version 6 beta with the promise of new emoticons. New emoticons! I mean, come on!

The only reason I use Messenger is so my wife can bug me while I'm at the office. And she bugs me so frequently, that it's nice to have new emoticons with which to convey my emotions, thus saving me precious keystrokes that I can better use for clients.

Now I get to twiddle my thumbs while I wait for the full version to be released. *Pause*. Hmm, I guess I'll have to check out the "official" White House website while I wait to be enlightened by the fearless leader of the free world!

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




Friday, June 20, 2003

Wouldn't it Be Better if Google Could Freeze Time?

Chatter about Google's possible IPO is getting to a few of its legions of fans. Wouldn't it be nice if 2002 could really be Google's Endless Summer?

I recently had this exchange with Perry Marshall, whose consultancy, Perry Marshall and Associates, helps high-tech, B2B companies target their markets more effectively.

Perry Marshall writes:

I don't know if the rumors are true -- Google PR says they're not -- but just in case the rumors are valid, please permit me to give you my two cents.

You guys literally built a better mousetrap and the world beat a path to your door. That is an exceedingly rare thing in today's business world. Congratulations on making a great search engine.

Now Wall Street wants Google. No question about it. And I'm sure the founders can collect at least a few hundred million of they go public.

But.... please listen.

19 months ago I helped sell a small private company to a publicly held firm. In anticipation of chaos, dismemberment and destruction, I bailed. I took the money and RAN as fast as I could.

Everyone else stayed.

The biggest shareholder, who got 80% of his money in a stock trade, subsequently lost $5 million in the space of a month as the share prices plummeted.
It was horrible, and everyone who stayed was probably envious of me because I got out, and because they found themselves reporting to a bunch of idiots.

Then those idiots gutted the company and it basically doesn't exist anymore.

So... please listen, if you go public, the world's greatest search engine will be cannibalized and sold for parts. All you wonderful people will suddenly be in a quarterly cycle of indentured slavery to quarterly reports. All the visionaries will be replaced by slave drivers.

In regards to the AdWords program: Wall Street will toss out your "relevancy requirement" in AdWords so they can make their numbers. The 0.5% minimum CTR will
become 0.25% and then 0%. They'll also get rid of your bid price multiplier that rewards good CTR's and eventually you'll be like Overture --- just a big bunch of surly bidding war whores.

Please understand - It won't happen because YOU are evil, it's will happen because Wall Street is so insatiably greedy. Within two years Google will become merely a shell of its old self. And it will lose its popularity and someone else will be king.

So --- keep AdWords intact, it really is a brilliant system. And don't sell out to the dark side.


Andrew replies:

There is no question that the reason for Google going public, as is usually the case in Silicon Valley, is so the founders and VC's can get liquid. It's inevitable. Let's just hope they don't go all the way to the extreme that you foresee here, Perry. Some companies that went public didn't completely lose their idealism - Apple and Netscape come to mind. Internet.com/JupiterMedia etc. never had wild fiscal success, but one could argue that they actually turned the tables on Wall Street: raised money and then ignored Wall Street and investors in favor of pursuing a particular vision related to verticals and content plays (Alan Meckler's in this case). IPO cash can lead to excessive conservatism and hyper-accelerated, unrealistic growth, but it can also foster massive innovation if the visionary founders are autocratic and irresponsible enough (we can only hope they are) to plow money into crazy ideas that just might work.

Ask Jeeves and About.com are two others that took bunches of IPO cash (to say nothing of the proceeds from their greedy-greedy secondary stock offerings at inflated valuations) and didn't really live up to their promise. The difference with Google, I think, is that they have a built-in bias towards technology and R&D. Ask Jeeves deployed its cash and stock irresponsibly for the first couple of years, never improving on their technology. When they finally acquired Teoma, Google was already the leader in the same type of technology, and ironically the sector was so depressed, Jeeves picked up Teoma for a song. Google is smart enough to use their money to hire more Ph.D.'s to work on more neat stuff.

Go2Net was an example of a fledgling company that used its stock to make acquisitions (cool stuff like Metacrawler) to fuel growth. Investors liked the stock even if Wall Street didn't (they went public via reverse takeover so no fat underwriting fees), so they did OK without catering to the big investment firms. The merger with Infospace was a disaster, but that's another story.

Maybe what I am getting at as I go back and forth on this issue is that possibly the best thing Google can do with its IPO cash is to hoard it and grow the company at a reasonable pace. No company should ever repeat the mistakes of cash-rich net stocks with inflated valuations - like Yahoo's overpaying at least twentyfold for Geocities, and Excite paying somewhere close to a billion for an online greeting card company.

Let the insiders and investors get liquid, Google, but don't get spend-happy, and please don't let Wall Street bully you into hitting certain short term quarterly profit targets when it isn't warranted. If the stock takes a short-term hit, well that's too bad. People ought to know by now that options aren't money. It will be incumbent on Google to keep salaries to a respectable level to retain their quality personnel, rather than dangling options in front of employees as was so common in the high tech sector during the boom.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Stuff & AdSense

Call me cynical, but when a ClickZ columnist comes out against a particular kind of advertising, I start to get suspicious. Yes, there are flaws in any kind of online advertising that isn't purely "pull" driven like search marketing. Content-targeted ads are arguably more intrusive than search ads. Advertisers get fewer clicks (so far). Then again, compared to what? Big flashing skyscrapers (remember that ClickZ column that asserted "the more intrusive the better")?

Naysaying about advertising... from a site about advertising, a site plastered with advertising, a site that has a business relationship with scumware provider Gator. Isn't it ironic?

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Thursday, June 19, 2003

Creepy Crawly

Cory's Secret Source was correct. Bambi Francisco confirms that Microsoft looms in the web search space.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Microsoft Unleashes Search Bot and World Will Never be the Same

Site owners, watch out. Microsoft is crawling through your web pages. Analyzing your site's text, following your links, going through your stuff. How's that for creepy? What's it mean?

Traffick's insider at MSN tells us that Microsoft has begun to reveal the fruit of its algorithmic search efforts -- MSNBot. And the world will never be the same.

OK, so, I'm being a bit melodramatic. But, when Microsoft does something, as anyone knows by now, they do it... shall we say, in a slightly nasty fashion. Analysts, and Microsoft itself, says that it has Google in its crosshairs. News.com reports that Microsoft has decided to roll its own search engine, instead of purchasing an algorithmic based engine, a decision that will have implications for every site owner in the world -- eventually.

Traffick's insider says that this is just the first salvo in the War on Google, and the end product of MSNBot won't be seen until at least next spring. So, enjoy your site's freedom, while it lasts. By this time next year, Microsoft might own you!

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Google Doesn't Disclose Revenue Share

I had guessed in the previous blog that the revenue share was around 50%. But according to Google's FAQ, "although we don't disclose the exact revenue share, our goal is to enable publishers to make as much or more than they could with other advertising networks."

Looking at it more closely, going on limited data, it looks to me like the publisher's share might be as high as 60-65%.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Google Extends Content Targeting to Small Publishers

Today Google launched an extended version of its content targeting program. (See previous Traffick coverage of this.)

Dubbed Google AdSense, the new program provides advertisers with placement on a potentially huge variety of topically-relevant web pages. As before, ads are matched with the content of a page "on the fly." The new wrinkle, no doubt being incorporated in stages, is technology from Applied Semantics (who formerly offered a product called AdSense), whom Google acquired shortly after announcing its first version of content targeting.

According to Google's Susan Wojcicki, manager of Google AdSense product development, the program should benefit users and publishers alike. Users may benefit because of the focus on relevancy. Publishers, especially small publishers with no dedicated ad sales staff, may appreciate the convenience the ad serving system offers them (no work outside of placing a few lines of code on their pages). And making it possible to sustain quality niche content may mean that more small publishers stay in business without having to resort to those "please donate" buttons or to rely entirely on paid content models.

Our demo of the program (see the ads on the left hand side of this page) proved straightforward to install. And it appears that Google is now going with a revenue sharing arrangement with publishers, which should be a better deal for them than the fixed CPM "media buy" approach Google took when it first announced the content targeting program. We feel a revenue share is important in an environment where advertisers are bidding in an auction system. If ads generate more revenue overall due to intense advertiser competition, publishers and Google both benefit. This will generate more publisher goodwill than if Google simply enjoyed an increasingly high margin while paying out a fixed rate to the publisher.

Some of Google's competitors have built fairly large ad networks by accepting smaller publishers, with mixed results. Some observers are questioning how Google will maintain control over traffic quality. Will advertisers run into inflated click counts and the like?

The AdSense program is supposed to combat that in a couple of ways. First, all publishers must apply and be approved by Google editorial staff. Presumably, only publishers of decent quality, niche content will be accepted. Secondly - as they do with the Google search engine itself - Google has the ability to rely on automated checks to look for anomalous behavior, low quality content, etc. This is just an extension of what Google already has the capacity to do, since they already have such a large index of web content. Potential bad actors will be flagged for human review.

The AdSense program brings a potentially vast universe of small publishers (fewer than 20 million impressions monthly - the minimum may be as low as 50,000 impressions) into Google's ad network. A largely technological solution to serving advertising on what has until now been a very fragmented marketplace of smaller publishers should offer advertisers a viable way of placing an increasing number of relevant, targeted ads within their existing Google AdWords accounts. Publishers can apply online for acceptance to the AdSense program at: http://www.google.com/adsense.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




This Just In: FindWhat Acquires Espotting

In a move that surely caught observers and competitors off guard, FindWhat, arguably the third-place player in the paid search industry, has acquired Espotting, a pay-per-click search advertising service that can still claim #1 spot in Europe, and a solid top-five contender overall. This would appear to vault FindWhat from a "tenuous third place" position into a "strong third place," although it's unlikely to threaten Google or Overture anytime soon.

In the wake of the announcement, FindWhat raised its financial outlook for the remainder of the year. It expects to earn a solid $0.46 per share after tax.

Although some will argue that the two companies won't grow stronger as a result of being combined, in fact consolidation is a clear trend in this sector for a number of reasons. In the first place, too many companies are chasing advertiser mindshare. Using fewer advertising services and scaling those listings more widely makes sense to most businesses placing ads online. Second, it's not as easy as it looks to upgrade account management and customer service functions. We tend to think that Findwhat was stronger on the former, though Espotting might have been stronger on the latter.

Those of us who actively use these services to promote client websites will be interested to see what kinds of changes are coming (especially with regard to the convenience of use of the campaign management interface) as a result of the merger. In my forthcoming Pay-Per-Click Advertising Buyer's Guide (expected release date: June 30), Findwhat actually scored slightly higher than Espotting, but both placed well. Findwhat's reach and company management have continued to make strides in the past year, and they've done quite a bit to improve the ease of use of the service. We found Espotting's interface to be less flexible, although customer service was excellent.

Forgive us for speculating on what blockbuster mega-merger may come next in this space. We still have a hunch that a traditional online ad serving company such as Doubleclick may merge with (or, the way things are going, be swallowed by) the likes of Overture or Google. The recent trajectory of merger & acquisition activity in online advertising is surely proof that the companies which do the best job of reducing friction between buyers and sellers (of goods and services, and of the advertising that helps buyers and sellers find each other) are pushing less efficient, less accountable business models into oblivion. Will the data-centric practices of "online ROI advertising" indeed spill all the way over into the mainstream (eg. television) advertising industry?

We thought that "paid search was here to stay" when we first reviewed Goto.com in early 2000. Who would have thought, though, that it would be "kicking ass and taking names" by 2003?

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Tuesday, June 17, 2003

MSN.ca to Power Content for Sympatico.ca

Canada's largest Internet Service Provider, Sympatico, will have its content served by MSN.ca beginning in 2004. This is a fairly significant announcement - one that reminds us of the continued international strength of MSN in many places where AOL is having trouble getting a foothold. Previously, Sympatico had partnered with Lycos in a similar deal, but the two parties agreed to terminate that deal.

Sympatico.ca has about 200 employees, while MSN.ca currently has 33.

To be clear, MSN does not offer Internet service in Canada - it focuses on content - but the new deal supposedly goes beyond content (how, exactly, isn't being fully explained).

The leaders in broadband Internet access in Canada are Sympatico (with 2.1 million customers) and Rogers Cable. Microsoft, incidentally, owns a 7% stake in Rogers.

MSN.ca received 9.5 million unique visitors in April; Sympatico.ca had 5.9 million.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Monday, June 16, 2003

The Internet Sans Training Wheels

Yahoo! has expanded a UK deal with BT. The two companies will offer something called "BT Yahoo Broadband," which bundles content with high-speed access.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Friday, June 13, 2003

Confirmed: Google to Phase Out CPM-Based "Premium Sponsorships"

Currently, Google offers two forms of advertising: Adwords, which is billed on a cost-per-click basis, and Premium Sponsorship, which is quoted on a CPM (cost-per-thousand-impressions) basis and is aimed at high-volume, high-budget corporate advertisers.

Today, Google VP of Advertising Sales Tim Armstrong made it official: no new Premium Sponsorships will be accepted and existing sponsors will not be able to renew at the end of their terms. This means that the program should be history by year end.

Official reasons for the decision? The number one reason, and we have no reason to doubt it, is the focus on relevancy. Premium ads may not have been quite as relevant as Adwords. With all advertisers competing on a level playing field (with more relevant ads being rewarded with higher positions, assuming equal bids), one might expect more relevant results to show up on the page.

Return on investment was also typically lower with Premium Sponsorships, Armstrong admits. The typical refuge of sellers of advertising is to claim that most of the benefit of high-cost ads lies in "branding." It's nice to see Google steering clear of this sort of rhetoric. Even larger companies are being encouraged to start thinking in terms of generating measurable actions with their campaigns. Insofar as Google is trying to articulate the unique benefit of search engine advertising, they set themselves apart from the platitudes of interruption marketers.

There are probably other reasons for the change, though. One is Google's culture. The methods of CPM-oriented ad salesmen, and the messages they convey to potential advertising clients, may be markedly different from the usual product-focused, technology-focused culture in the company. The return to "just Adwords" is a reconfirmation of Google's engineering culture which "iteratively" releases product upgrades and tests cool features with the complicity of users and customers. Obviously, sales staff will continue to maintain strong relationships with high-budget advertisers, but instead of catering entirely to those advertisers' preconceived notion of what advertising should do, now the onus will be on Google to advocate the benefits of cost-per-click advertising - or what Armstrong today referred to as "ROI advertising."

According to Armstrong, large ad agencies were not, at first, "attuned" to cost-per-click advertising, so they clamored for CPM-based programs which would mesh better with their billing systems, sales methods, and established practices. "Google's CPM program has been training wheels to get large advertisers on board with 'ROI advertising,'"argues Armstrong. "These same customers are now applauding the move to cost-per-click."

Amongst the set of forthcoming features that are going to be aimed at saving time for high-budget advertisers - many of whom may be launching new Adwords campaigns in the coming months - is a better "bulk keyword" functionality which will make it easier for larger advertisers to manipulate their accounts without the slow response times associated with the current online interface.

Imagine: Google telling people in suits how to think. Maybe they really do have too much power! :)

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Wednesday, June 11, 2003

New Traffick Article:
The Seven-or-So Habits of Highly Profitable Pay-Per-Click Search Engine Campaigns


Even businesses without huge amounts of capital can achieve fall-over-in-disbelief success with PPC campaigns, as Andrew's recent experience with AdWords can attest.

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




All Yahoo, All the Time

News.com is rife with interesting tidbits about the world's best portal, Yahoo:

* Yahoo has introduced an outgoing e-mail spam "challenge-response" system for users sending e-mail (as reported by Traffick before any other publication or blog, to my knowledge). But it doesn't happen upon sending every message because, as News.com, reports:

"In order to keep spammers guessing, Yahoo's system computes what the company calls a "user profile." This profile details the frequency with which the user normally sends messages and the length of time the user has held the account. The system issues a spam challenge when the user approaches an individually determined rate limit."
Ah, so that's why Andrew and I only saw it a few times. Still, as a Yahoo account holder since 1998, I don't know why I would trigger their challenge system. Maybe they were testing the system?

* Yahoo also has announced a partnership with WebEx -- a company that provides online collaboration software that works very well, as I can attest -- into its Yahoo Messenger Enterprise Edition . So now, corporate IM users can launch online meetings while using Yahoo Messenger. Pretty neat.

* Yahoo Personals will expand to Europe soon, as announced today: "The expansion will reach the United Kingdom, France and Germany, adding to offerings in the United States, Canada, Hong Kong and Taiwan," News.com reports. It's no wonder Yahoo is doing this, as online personals is shaping up to be one of the few online business success stories, along with auctions and paid search ads.

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Ad Man Asks: WWWBD (What Would Wilfred Brimley Do?)

Phil Ross, a marketer of promotional products, weighs in with a much-needed critique of crass and misleading forms of advertising.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Monday, June 09, 2003

Moreover Set to Roll Out New Blog Database

I was thinking of making this juicy tidbit into an article, but then I realized: it's timely, it's topical, and it's not long enough to be an article (and besides, I'm too lazy to call anyone for an interview right now). And plus, it's actually about weblogs. That seals it. I must blog. Beware of infinite regress.

After being critical of Moreover's recent drift towards mediocrity (indexing too many short articles bordering on weblog entries), Traffick has learned that Moreover Technologies plans to roll out a new weblog database. So far, the company has aggregated 17,000 weblogs, resulting in (thus far) about 1,000 daily articles (or "entries," or "blog entries") being indexed.

As with the existing article "metabase," Moreover's blog database will be extensively categorized with a combination of editorial guidance and XML-enabled feeds. It promises to be one of the freshest and most usable blog search tools available, and should give competitors a run for their money. Expect a few wrinkles, though, that imply that Moreover may be forging productive ties with competitors. We're told that weblogs may be tagged and rated according to PageRank (just a rumor at this stage) as well as something called "Moreover rank" based on editorial decisions about source quality.

Eagerly anticipating the rollout? I am, since I'm better at just going in and playing around with new toys than I am at describing them. It should be out in July.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Sunday, June 08, 2003

Yahoo Mail is Even Experimenting with the Little Critters

Recently, sending an email from my Yahoo Mail account, I was asked to type in one of those "submission codes" - visually represented as large letters on a grid pattern. The idea is to help them weed out spammers, they say. I don't know much about how spammers use Yahoo Mail accounts, but one presumes some have found ways to open accounts and send mail at lightning speed.

Anyway, I only saw the submission code once. Perhaps one time is enough to satisfy Yahoo Mail that my account is real. (Of course, since I paid $50 for the bigger inbox, how could it not be?)

We're going to be dealing with more and more of these gateways in our daily online activities. Insofar as they prevent people from using bots to do things that harm the rest of us, I say, great. Perhaps a short 3-point IQ test would be in order for certain message boards (Yahoo Finance comes to mind).

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Whois? You Mean Who-was!

You'd have to be living under a rock these days to have never encountered a site that utilizes "submission codes." This the technology increasingly utilized by companies with high-traffic data access points to prevent automated scripts from continuously querying the database to extract data, often for nefarious purposes.

Network Solutions' "WHOIS" tool, which allows you to retrieve information about a domain name's owner, is the latest to adopt this method. While this is a great way to prevent the bad guys from getting the goods, it's an irritant to honest users. The problem, of course, is that it's almost impossible to tell the two apart.

One of the first examples of submission codes I can remember is the "submit URL" feature on AltaVista (of course, it would take up to 6 months to actually index your site, but that's another story). Then, the most extensive rollout of submission code was initiated by Overture to prevent scripts from automatically logging in to Overture's pay-per-click search ad accounts and adjusting bids based on certain criteria.

I'm sure WHOIS won't be the last tool to get this treatment. It would be nice, however, if there was a viable alternative to this annoying extra step that would allow trustworthy users to skip the step. As Internet security becomes more of a concern for everyone, I'm hoping a better solution can be found.

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




Friday, June 06, 2003

NetCaptor's Perspective on IE Developments

Adam Stiles, the developer behind the uber-cool IE-based NetCaptor browser, has posted some interesting thoughts about whether or not IE is dead as a standalone browser. First off, he says IE is not dead.

He also points out that IE is a first-generation browser, and that second-generation browsers are defined by tab functionality that encapsulates all browser windows into one master window, making it much easier to navigate a crowded taskbar in Windows. Other second-gen browsers like Opera and Safari have tabs, and IE cannot add tabs due to limitations to the Windows OS shell; and thus, Stiles surmises, that's why we might not see a new version of IE until Longhorn -- the next Windows OS -- debuts sometime in 2005. Makes sense, I reckon.

But, if Stiles can soup up the base IE engine... why couldn't MS engineers, too?

In the meantime, if you want to see what the next version of IE will look like, I highly recommend you pay $29.95 and buy Netcaptor. IMHO, it blows away Opera, Netscape and any other browser. The only thing I miss with Netcaptor is the Google toolbar, which does not work with tabbed browsers, which is why you won't be seeing the Google toolbar available for either Opera or Netscape.

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




Thursday, June 05, 2003

Google Finds Portal to Europe

Google has just signed a deal to distribute paid listings to Terra Lycos Europe, surely a cause for concern for Overture, who has a deal with Lycos in the US and would dearly love to expand this worldwide. It's also a concern to Espotting, the other major player in the three-way race for search advertising supremacy in Europe.

While Lycos is only the #4 portal in the world, it has regional strengths and the distribution is not to be sneezed at.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




As the Browser Turns...

Now, as reported by News.com again, Microsoft is backpedaling from a statement made by an executive that the current version of Internet Explorer will be the last standalone version, and that all future upgrades will be tied to Windows.

Many in the Net community have equated this statement with Microsoft using its browser monopoly to force upgrades to future Windows operating systems, and it's no wonder. If you can only get the latest browser functionality by upgrading to to Longhorn, that's the same thing as charging anywhere from $99 to $199 for an incremental version of IE. In other words, pure rubbish.

Now Microsoft is saying they aren't sure what they're going to do with future versions of IE. That's not very reassuring. Something needs to be done with IE, and many are even willing to pay for it, but not if it's tied to an OS upgrade. Sadly, the current state of browserdom is becoming just plain depressing. There has been no real innovation from IE in at least two years, and even though I admire upstarts like Mozilla, Opera and Netcaptor, as a web developer with tight deadlines, I only target my projects to be compliant with IE, since it's got a 90%+ market share.

So, what these upstarts need to do is start partnering with major search engines or portals and open a new front in the browser war, one that might have a slight chance of actually forcing Microsoft to be a good browser citizen by adhering to standards, and one that will give users real choice in a browser.

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Search123 and ValueClick a Good Fit

Recall four days ago I wrote in this space that "talk of Yahoo buying Overture is misguided. A more compatible scenario would be one of the major online ad networks such as DoubleClick merging with one of the top or second tier PPC players."

Yesterday's acquisition of smallish but highly competent PPC search player Search123 by publicly traded online advertising technology provider ValueClick is a scaled-down version of this scenario.

It's highly logical, captain.

Or as the ancients might put it, "as with proper management of the household, so goes the state." We'd expect larger deals of this nature, such as the Doubleclick-Overture scenario mentioned earlier, in the next six months. The traditional online advertising players have a lot at stake. Either they acquire some pay-per-click search advertising capacity, or they'll watch PPC companies take more and more of their market share.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




My Preferences about Google Search Preferences

After many months of being annoyed by finding non-English search results when using the big G, I now know why: Google's search preference settings default to "search all languages" instead of defaulting to "search English only."

Pardon me for being Anglo-centric, but if Google.com is English-specific, one would think that users of Google.com would get English-specific results only unless they choose otherwise, not the other way around. Of course, I have nothing against the Japanese or Italian languages, but I can't read them, so search results in those languages are pretty much useless to me and probably 90% of Google.com users.

It's a small nit to pick, but I think Google should change that default setting for users searching Google.com. Conversely, if you're using Google.jp or Google.it, I would also think you'd get results in that language by default. Am I crazy to think that?

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




It's About Time Dept.

In a move that seems surprising only because we kind of assumed the deal had already been done, Google inked a deal with AOL Canada yesterday.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Monday, June 02, 2003

And Now This: Microsoft to Nix Standalone Versions of IE!

As if the news regarding AOL and Microsoft's deal last week wasn't enough, now News.com reports that IE 6 Service Pack 1 is the final standalone version of Internet Explorer. What the dilly? A telling snippet:

[IE program manager Brian Countryman] dismissed suggestions that the decision to drop a standalone browser was related to antitrust issues, hinting that planned new security enhancements for the upcoming version of its Windows operating system, code named Longhorn, was the driving force behind the move.

Hmm, this statement should give pause to anyone whose browser has a blue "e" logo in the upper right hand corner. This is a very disconcerting development that will doubtlessly have bad implications for the 95% of the Web users who run IE. I do not question that the reasoning has to do with security improvements to the next version of Windows, but that doesn't mean it's good for the end user.

What it sounds like to me is if you want the latest browsing technology, you gotta upgrade to the latest operating system. So that free browser you were accustomed to, just got a $100+ price tag. Ugh.

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




What's all the Fuss about Firebird?

For the 0.5% of web users interested in new and exotic browsers designed to unseat IE, this one's for you. Apparently, Mozilla, the open-source version of Netscape, is morphing into something new: Firebird. Here is a quick backgrounder:

The Mozilla Firebird project is a redesign of Mozilla's browser component, written using the XUL user interface language and designed to be cross-platform.

Clarification: "Mozilla Firebird" is just a project name, in the same way as the Mozilla Application Suite is codenamed "SeaMonkey". For more details, read about the Mozilla Branding Strategy and the Mozilla Roadmap.


Huh? There's been plenty of media hype and praise throughout the web developer community about how great Firebird is, how it's even better than Mozilla, yadda, yadda, yadda. I always get a laugh out of geeks who think their hobby "power tools" are going to be adopted by the mainstream. Even if Firebird was the Second Coming himself, it would face an insurmountable job of chipping away at IE's massively entrenched user base.

I'm all for new browser tech, but it ain't coming from the guys who work at Netscape on payroll or otherwise. Mozilla's been around for three years now, and has done absolutely nothing but serve as an interesting plaything for a few hardcore techies. I'm not saying it's impossible to beat IE, but you really need to have something special, and neither Mozilla nor Firebird are it.

Now, if Google released a browser, that would be remarkable...

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




Sunday, June 01, 2003

Microsoft to Withdraw from ISP Biz?

That's what Reuters via MSNBC.com is suggesting. I can see how one might draw this conclusion due to the surprising details surrounding the recent deal with AOL, but come on! When's the last time Microsoft actually admitted defeat?

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




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