February 25, 2004

Search Big in Japan

Joi Ito has an interesting story about the early days of search and online advertising in Japan.

And his last bit is scary indeed. The more so, as this summer I will have been working on search.ch for nine years. Could it be, that search.ch is actually the longest running web search engine in the world? Whoops, that would be really scary. Does anyone have a time-organized list that also includes regional search engines?

Posted by seefeld at 09:23 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 19, 2004

PHPepperShop

Many interesting presentations and people at LOTS, yesterday. A product, that caught my attention is PHPeppershop. Found by two students from the Hochschule Wintherthur, the company produces a GPLed e-commerce software for online shops, reportedly in use at over two thousand sites.

Their financing model is what interested me: They propose new features, estimate their costs and propose them on their website. If I am interested in that feature, I can subscribe as sponsor for it and they implement it as soon as the financing is secured. Sponsors have the rights to use the new features for three months before they are incorporated into the public release. So far they seem to implement all the features before they are fully financed, probably expecting the earn the money in the just-for-sponsors phase. In any case, this looks like an interesting financing model for open source software that is actually implemented in practice.

Posted by seefeld at 16:59 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Yahoo's new Search Engine

There is a lot to read in the blogosphere about Yahoo's new search engine.

Currently results seem to change too often to seriously compare them, but at the first impression the results look relevant.

As the new search engine is not Inktomi, one wonders what might happen to the results at MSN and other Inktomi customers. Most of them are now Yahoo's competitors and the business of generating search results isn't very lucrative (as opposed of the business of displaying search results), so it is conceivable that we won't see much improvement there. We are back in an industry, where owning search technology is an important success factor (good for us, too :-) ).

Other random observations:

  • They seem to treat pages with RSS feeds specially, offering "View as XML" and a "Add to My Yahoo!" links for them.
  • Ego-surfing my lastname brings up www.bernhardseefeld.ch, but before that www.b.seefeld.name, which just redirects to the former. Why is this there at all and even ranked higher? I couldn't find any link to the latter, surely no important links.
  • Similarly, Phil Ringnalda notes how a single links seam to alter results significantly.
  • As for short cuts, smart searches or (as I like to call them) searchlets, Yahoo!'s portal offers a big variety already. Try searching for city names, universities, sports team (American), etc.

Chris Langreiter has a tool to compare Yahoo and Google.

Posted by seefeld at 16:33 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 16, 2004

New tel.search.ch Features

We just added a few small features to tel.search.ch's "No Results" page:

  • All suggestions with link indicate how many results you will get when you click on them
  • Spelling suggestions based on the actual corpus, e.g. a search for Heinz Müler
  • Reverse lookups of unknown numbers suggest a look in the same block and link to webpages with said number, e.g. search for 055 4151515
  • Reverse lookups of international numbers link to the respective phonebook, e.g. search for 0049 123456789
  • Several suggestions to leave out overspecific fields or to extend the region searched

More coming up soon...

Posted by seefeld at 12:24 | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 12, 2004

Online Advertising in the Broadband Age

Lately, there is increased coverage of so called "new advertising opportunities in the broadband age". Unfortunately they all focus on streaming multimedia versions of the same old story, as if the people all got their ADSL subscription for that one to come. Ok, I enjoy some of the funny ads and broadband will allow increased reuse of them, but overall - putting on my user hat - I don't see much to get excited about. In my opinion, the true innovators in online advertising will look beyond the technical specs of the fatter pipes but more at how this infrastructure allow people to change their overall behavior.

There are two important things beyond the ability for multimedia downloads, that I consider importnat: The effect of being always on and the much better response times. Both will not only change the general media consumption pattern (i.e. increased internet usage, the importance of the web as information source for an increasing number of activities and interests) but they will also change the way applications work.

Today, the page impression is the dominant unit of online advertising exposure. However, what it stands for already varies a lot: Not only in the target audience (where the current discussion among marketers is focused on) but also on the amount of clutter on page - including other advertisements - and basic duration of said impression. And my prediction, is that coming usage patterns will diversify the meaning of page impression into the realm of the meaningless.

Always on will bring us the ones that will last for dozens of minutes to several hours, hosting short interactions with no overall starts and ends. The clueless will invariably introduce ads that reload every 30 seconds, invariably of the user watching or being busy doing something else.

Better response times will introduce the few-seconds pageview, lasting only long enough for the eye to catch the single small nugget of information the user expects and short enough to ignore the rest. This will be the come-and-leave applications with dozens of visits per day, but only very short sessions and page layouts memorized in the reflexive parts of our brains (think dictionaries, stock quotes, public transport schedules (next bus), etc.). This will also be the next-next-next applications, akin to the quick browsing through your paper catalogs (skip skip skip) where better response times mean lower barriers to the next click and which mean the scanning of a lot of raw information in short periods of time.

A few years ago, a page that loaded 20 seconds was normal. Today three seconds seems slow. If broadband increases the overall pace of usage, why would anyone accept waiting for a 30 seconds spot to finish more than they did before?

What kind of advertising products not only survive in that environment, but actually incorporate themselves into these new workflows? Which "enrich the experience" in a way that helps the user instead of annoying him? With it new units of measurements beside the page impression and the click through will have to emerge. Unfortunately, since new units always slow down the adoption. On the other hand, keeping the wrong units too long will damagingly misrepresent the value of online adverising.

Update: Apparently, P&G's marketing chief thinks into a similar direction, at least in the more general aspects of where the advertising industry should move to: "For each element of the marketing mix, we should ask ourselves, 'Would consumers choose to look at or listen to this,' and let that be the benchmark" he said in a critical speech to the American Association of Advertising Agencies.

Posted by seefeld at 23:31 | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Dutch youth uses MSN's IM more than SMS

Smartmobs reports that the dutch youth uses MSN Messenger more than SMS. Apparently this is attributed to increased broadband usage in the Netherlands. But thinking about it, I am not very shocked about it: Apart from sheer availability consider the huge difference in usability and cost. Of course, IM wins over SMS; but that this can surprise is an interesting sign of our perception towards all things mobile. (Shocking however is MSN's market share in IM clients there...)

Posted by seefeld at 22:30 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How geeks organize

There is a lot of truth in the Life Hacks session at ETCon (Via Gregor). I see myself in most things and it includes a good reason to increase my blogging again... And I can only second the importance of the 10-seconds rule ("if you can't file something in 10 seconds, you won't do it"). And the thing about remembering the big things, but forgetting about the small ones like laundry all the time: I feel so understood :-)

I wonder why nobody mentioned wikis though. We increasingly use our wiki as notepad. Bonus link: wikis in less than ten lines of code.

Posted by seefeld at 22:22 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Internet Expo

Last week was the Internet Expo in Zürich. We had a search.ch booth with many partners there. My general impression of the exhibition is, that the sales people to customer ratio is tilting towards the latter again, though I don't know if that is because of an increase of one figure or the decrease of the other :-) For us, it was a very successful presence. First day, first thing were people coming to us and saying "I want to buy online advertising". Now that's a nice sign for a market picking up.

The next conference coming up is in my neighborhood and co-organized by Urs Gehrig: LOTS - Let's Open The Source. search.ch is a media partner.

Posted by seefeld at 22:03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Business Diploma

Me, getting a business diplomaThe picture shows how last week the dean handed me a lic. rer. pol. diploma, even a magna cum lauda one.
No, don't worry, I didn't switch sides. I was there as a stand-in for my brother, who earned this diploma with many years of hard work, but who is currently having a good time in Argentina! That is also the reason for the suit. It seems to be a tradition in our family to be abroad and miss one's official graduation. I had interesting times in Myanmar during mine. I wonder how it was however, since Arni's was surprisingly interesting. It started with a quite entertaining talk by the dean followed with a thought-provoking lecture by Therese Frösch. Arni seems to have left his mark though, the musicians played two tangos!

So, Arni, I hereby forward all congratulations I got for your graduation to you :-)

Posted by seefeld at 21:51 | Comments (1) | TrackBack