Archives for "October 2004"

All Google-Watchers Now

When I first started my blog, certain people weren't afraid to point out to me that I seemed obsessed with Google. I was, of course. What can I say? I was ahead of the posse! ;)

These days, everyone seems to be speculating about Google; the Google IPO; what its next moves might be; whether it is a force for good or evil; whether it is going to challenge Microsoft; whether we can trust it with our privacy; whether we should love it or hate it; etc.

In this entry, I wanted to give you a flavour of some of that speculation.

David Weinberger considers what Google means when it says that it wants "to organize the world's information, and make it accessible":

What might [the Google application of the future] be like?

It would find pages on the Web, of course, but it'd also find the ones on my desktop (Google desktop). It would know about my email (Gmail). It would know that my own photos are categorically different from all the other jpgs on the planet (Picasa). It would let me browse the physical earth (Keyhole) and show on a map the documents that talk about any particular place (Keyhole + Google Local).

And it wouldn't be just a browser. It would let me work with the information I've found: Manage my photos (Picasa), manage my desktop files, translate documents (Google Languages), shop...

Hublog, meanwhile, lists everything that Google "knows" about you:

- Everything you search for using Google
- Every web page you visit that has Google Adsense ads on it
- Which country you're in
- Every Blogger page you visit, and the referring page
If you have an Adsense account
- Your full name, address and bank account details
- The IP address of everyone who visits your pages with Adsense ads on them
- The number of visitors to each of your pages with Adsense ads on them
If you use a GMail account
- Who you send emails to
- Who sends emails to you
- The contents of those emails
- The contents of all emails received from any mailing lists of which you are a member, even if they are private mailing lists.
Even if you don't use a GMail account
- The contents of any emails you send to anyone who does use a GMail account
- The contents of any emails you send to any mailing lists of which any one member uses a GMail account
If you're a member of Orkut
- Your online social network, interests and groups

It's hard to believe a technology so new has become so important, so quickly. The same might be said of the internet as a whole. But having just celebrated its birthday, I'm glad to say that the internet is not that new -- in fact it's (just about) older than me!

Google Aptitude Test

Interested in working for Google? Try the Google Aptitude Test.

Women More Likely to Click Sponsored Links

I've just noticed the results of a survey by iProspect, published earlier this year, which finds that women are more likely to click on paid-for links on websites (e.g. Google Ads).

For me, this is not too surprising. When giving workshops or seminars on the topics of search engine optimisation or marketing, I usually ask for a show of hands to find out how many people click on Google's sponsored listings. I've found that while people are generally resistant to clicking on paid-for links, hands that go up tend to be predominantly female.

In keeping with this is another finding I reported on some time back, that women are more receptive to spam than men.

Google Explores Clustering

Google is working on a new version of its search engine that clusters search results. The company gave a presentation of its clustering technology at a recent conference.

Clustering refers to a method of presenting search engine results that is based on a (machine) analysis of document texts.

For example, look at how search engines such as Clusty (a.k.a. Vivisimo) or Mooter present their results. Some believe that the threat from these emerging engines prompted Google to investigate the clustering method.

I'm not sure that I'm too keen on clustered results -- though if it were a feature that I could toggle on and off, I'd perhaps grow to like it.

Update: It seems that Google has been trying out a "related searches" feature for a while now. Here's a screenshot.

Also, check out this GoogleClusters logo from SEO Roundtable.

Google Desktop Search Proving Popular

Google has trumped Microsoft by releasing its new desktop search tool, which allows you to search documents on your own hard drive, and returns results in the familiar, intuitive Google web page format.

That's right: now you can Google your hard drive!

The tool is easy to install and is already proving popular, according to early feedback from users. On the downside, the programme needs quite a lot of space, which can be a problem, espcially as you don't get to choose which drive partition to install to.

My guess is that Google Desktop Search may be the company's first step towards a peer-to-peer search engine that allows users to search the contents of each others' hard drives.

MovableType Moving On Up

SixApart, the company famous for designing the MovableType System (used to publish weblogs) has just received a new round of funding and is poised to become an important player in the web industry.

Also this week, the company hired three of the web's best known (or "A-list") bloggers, including Michael Sippey, Brad Choate and Jay Allen.

Just three years old, the company has recently released version 3.0 of its popular software, making it for the first time a commercial vendor, rather a shareware distributor.

Google Launches SMS Service

Snippets of Google's search results available via text message. The service, called Google SMS, is currently only available in the US.

Users can text a word or phrase to Google's number, and Google will text them back with the the results of their query. So far as I can tell, this snippet will be similar to the information you would see on a Google search results web page, before you click on any of the links to go to the source sites.

It is difficult to say how useful this service would be. Google explains that if, for example, you texted "G population San Francisco" to its number (you have to put "G" before the search terms), you would get a result texted back saying "San Francisco Population. Population: 728,921 (1992); Population ...".

Now, if do a Google search on the web for San Francisco Population, you will see that the snippet is taken from the first search result. Presumably this is where the snippet comes from.

As one observer put it, this could signal the end of the pub quiz! But would it really? In my view, the snippets can't be relied upon to provide answers. For example, try typing "Ireland population" or "population of Ireland" or "population of Ireland 2004" into Google. The first result wouldn't provide any real answer.

As well as snippets, however, users can make more specific requests for dictionary definitions, business addresses and product prices (taken from Froogle).

It remains to be seen whether many people will find this service useful. Personally, I'll be surprised if Google SMS takes off. Then again, I was surprised that SMS ever took off in the first place!

Yahoo Launches Personal Search

Yahoo has launched a personalised version of its search engine.

Personally (ahem) speaking, I don't see much value for this tool, for reasons I stated when Google made live a beta-version of its own personalised search tool.

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Mediajunk was Michael Heraghty's blog from 2002 to 2010, with articles on usability, UX, SEO, web design, online marketing, etc. More »

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