Today I’m launching a new category to follow the march of progress of alternatives to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser. After following Mozilla Firefox for several months, I’ve now made Firefox 0.9.1 my default web browser on my Windows machine. I’m impressed with the speed of it’s rendering engine and the open source aspect has added a healthy suite of plug-ins and extensions. The tipping point for changing the browser default came when I ran across an extension that allowed me to right-click on any web page viewed using Firefox and view that page within IE.
As a first post on Browsers, I link to a post on BoingBoing which outlines how quickly (31 hours!) the open source community was able to react to and patch Firefox in response to discovering a security vulnerability. This turnaround time is especially significant when put into context with all the recent hubbub over security holes for those using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer including an official warning from US-CERT.
Surprise, Surprise. Lookout, the Outlook add-in that I’ve been touting for some time now, has been scooped up by the MSN division of Microsoft. They will be rolling in Lookout’s universal search technology into the next generation MSN search technology. Nothing more than vague musing right now but the statements from the Microsoft press release below points to a vision where MSN will reach into your email box and hard disk connecting internet searches with queries on your inbox and hard drive.
This acquisition builds on the range of new and updated services MSN launched July 1 for its MSN Search service. As part of a $100 million investment in improving the customer experience, MSN delivered its most significant upgrade to MSN Search, introducing several changes designed to help give people faster, cleaner and easier access to the information they want. Specific improvements included a new MSN Search home page (at http://search.msn.com/) that features easy navigation to popular MSN services; a new, cleaner look for its search results page that separates algorithmic results from paid results and eliminates paid inclusion; direct access to popular information sources such as Encarta®, the No. 1 best-selling encyclopedia brand*; and extensive performance improvements.
These improvements were initial steps toward achieving the MSN vision of taking search beyond today’s basic Internet search services to delivering direct answers to people’s questions from a broad range of information. As part of this vision, MSN will launch a new algorithmic search engine and a range of other search services within a year. With the acquisition of Lookout, MSN adds additional expertise and technology that will contribute to this vision.
Time to add mentions of “algorithmic search engine” to my clipping profile for news about Microsoft Search.
Adam Penenberg writes in Wired that there is a very real financial incentive for the NYT web site to continue to hide its stories behind a subscription wall. A $20 million/year all-you-can-eat royalty agreement with Lexis-Nexis is an awfully hard arrangement to tear up. John Battelle noodles on this idea a bit more and ponders when the attraction of differentiated revenue from individuals, finding stories on their own via Google and other search engines, will outweigh the guaranteed revenue stream from L-N. He also adds:
What revenue stream accounts for the lion’s share of search’s margin? Advertising. That’s a one legged stool ready to tip over. As the search giants become more and more media companies, they must develop subscription services, and because users won’t want to pay for something they already believe is free (searching) search engines will have to figure out a way to become middlemen to paid content. After all, they own distribution, so they should become…distributors. Were they to execute this service in a scaled and elegant fashion, it might be viewed as a benefit – in many cases, subscribers will get more content for less than they were paying in the past (that’s the benefit of volume).
Google as a portal to premium content? Haven’t we been there before? One comment to John’s post points out that this has been AOL’s model for the past 10 years. Yahoo has continually tried to push premium services and could easily bundle in targeted content. Northern Light also blazed this trail but flamed out after a failure to bring together enough content.
There are many ways to get to content and Google is the current flavor of the month. Of greater demand is having a single account that aggregates access fees to each site for a reasonable monthly fee. Why pay nytimes.com and wsj.com separately when you’d rather pay a single bill for unfettered access to these sites and more? Yes, Google has the distribution network but PayPal or American Express might be a better player for a unified subscription account. After setting up unified subscription fees, the next step is working with each of the major content vendors on feeding RSS feeds of their content to the major search engine vendors so that their content begins to move up in the rankings. Portions of the proceeds of the subscription fees could then go to each of the search engine vendors, paid out as a proportion of the amount of traffic they drive to the payment vendor for signup. $40/month sounds about right – we’ll call it a “global media press pass.”
UPDATE: Cory cuts to the chase
The NYT’s registration system and expiring pages have doomed them to google-obscurity. Wired News argues that they’ve gone from being the paper of record to a Web-era irrelevancy, and all to protect a Lexis-Nexis agreement and to bring in two to three percent of the digital division’s profits.
I’m on a plane to Tokyo for a week of time with the family but wanted to post links to a conversation between Gary Price and Gary Flake, Principal Scientist & Head of Yahoo! Research Labs so that I can read it later.
Today I announced my resignation from Factiva. I’ve been contemplating a move for several months now and the starts aligned in such a way to open up a door for me (thanks Mie!) at Six Apart, the folks who put out the software that allows me to create this site. I’ve had a good run with Factiva, starting in 1996 with a stint at Dow Jones based in Tokyo, the birth of a Factiva, relocation to the Princeton headquarters, and a two year run at managing the flagship product, Factiva.com. Everytime things got a little boring, Factiva always managed to find something interesting for me to sink my teeth into. A lot of thinking went into this decision and it’s become clear to me in this process that an incremental change of job title is not enough and it’s really time for me to shift gears and jump into a new company.
I made the decision last night to accept Six Apart’s offer and while waiting for my boss to get off the phone so I could tell him of my decision, I strolled down to the credit union to close my account. I was grilled by the teller there for my reason’s to close down the account:
“Why do you need to close your account?”
“I’m transferring (me not wanting to break the news before telling my boss)”
“A lot of people keep their accounts even if they are located elsewhere”
“I’m, err, actually transferring to another company.”
“That’s ok, you can even get your new company to deposit their paychecks here, I just want to inform you of your options.”
“Um, that’s ok, I’m actually going to be quite far away.”
“That’s not a problem, we have electronic. . .”
“No, really, that’s not necessary. I just want to close out the account. . . ”
“OK then, but you know there’s a $5 charge to close your account. Good luck to you.”
Today was a day of telling selective people the news – after the first few, it became easier and easier to broach the topic. I feel like a skydiver who has just pulled the rip-cord and now am reaching terminal velocity for what I hope will be a safe landing – GERONIMO!
Charles Arthur, who writes for the UK paper, The Independent puts the Search conundrum in plain English,
Yet it’s strange that it’s a lot easier to find something on the web than on my desk; and easier to find something on the web than on my computer. You would think one would store the things that are most important in the closest, most accessible locations; after all, you don’t leave your wallet and car keys at the bottom of an unlit stairwell locked in a safe while keeping your entire wardrobe within arm’s length.
Instead, Google, halfway around the world, is the default for a lot of the horsework, looking up phone numbers, checking facts, finding references…. But why do we let computers make our lives hard for us? Partly because we”ve let them remain stupid. The graphical user interface, with its metaphors of “files and folder and desktop”, has remained unchanged since 1983 when Apple introduced it with the Lisa. . .
I believe it was Bill Gates who once admonished his developers that it was ridiculous that it took longer to find a file on a local hard disk through Windows than it did to find a document among billions on the open web via Google. This became the rallying cause behind including a SQL based file system for Longhorn.
Peter Coffee writes in Goodbye to Email that spam, phishing, and the hide-and-seek games that spammers play in trying to outwit new email filter schemes is causing so much headache that some Enterprise IT manager’s are looking at alternative communication channels such as application-to-application links.
. . . the fraction of e-mail comprising spam rose from 58 percent in December 2003 to 64 percent in May, according to measurements by anti-spam provider Brightmail. That’s an annual growth rate of 83 percent in spam per desired message, but total distraction grows even more quickly as people use e-mail more often: Nucleus Research estimates the average worker receives 29 unwanted messages each day, more than twice the figure of 13 that the company found a year ago. . .
The blank slate of e-mail has given enterprises the freedom to visualize and experiment with future communication tools. Now that those rough sketches have taken form, it’s time to produce more rigorous blueprints, using more focused and less readily abused technologies such as Web services. E-mail will still have a role but not as the central nervous system of the 21st-century workplace.
The breakdown of email as the "killer app" is driving next phase in the evolution towards business-to-business integration that is driving developers to pick up where they left off in building some of the "connectors" promised with systems such as Microsoft’s BizTalk Server but updating their work with more standards-based, web services interfaces. Such an evolution will only serve to hasten the availability and use of the web as platform.
The 101st Tour de France started on July 3rd and Lance Armstrong will be going for an unprecedented sixth consecutive win. It’ll be a sprinter’s race for the next two weeks (yesterday’s finish of Stage 2 ended was clocked at speeds of 67 kms!) leading up the mountains where the men are separated from the boys. In the meantime, here’s a post on the latest gadgets at use in the peleton.
I’ve already signed up for SMS pages of the daily results.
Wired files this story on Apple’s announcement of Spotlight.
In Jobs’ scheme, the hierarchy of files and folders is a dreary, outdated metaphor inspired by office filing. In today’s communications era, categorized by the daily barrage of new e-mails, websites, pictures and movies, who wants to file when you can simply search? What does it matter where a file is stored, as long as you can find it?
Microsoft is already doing this with something called “Search Folders” on Outlook 2003, Apple is extending that paradigm to the entire hard drive and indexing in the background to improve performance.
Just dug around a bit and see that Apple will be providing a Developer’s Kit to extend Spotlight’s search engine to other applications.
But the search engine also works contextually within applications such as Apple’s Mail, Address Book and System Preferences—and Apple is giving developers at WWDC a software development kit to help them build Spotlight into their own applications. eWeek, June 28th
I guess they’re going to reach out to their developer’s community to connect Spotlight to the internet. This should be interesting.