David Kirkpatrick

August 19, 2010

Google’s Eric Schmidt is losing his mind

Filed under: Business, Media, Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:28 pm

What’s the deal with CEOs of big name internet companies going off the rails? Here’s Yahoo’s Carol Bartz from back in May, and now Google’s Eric Schmidt has made an increasing series of completely ridiculous statements culminating (for now) with this doozy. I hope this was said tongue-in-cheek and didn’t translate to the printed word. For some reason I doubt it. Do no evil, indeed.

From the second link:

Google (GOOG) is often accused of behaving like Big Brother, and Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt isn’t doing much to dispel those perceptions. In fact, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Schmidt dropped an interesting — and frightening — tidbit: perhaps people should change their names upon reaching adulthood to eradicate the potentially reputation-damaging search records Google keeps.

“‘I don’t believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time,’ [Schmidt] says. He predicts, apparently seriously, that every young person one day will be entitled automatically to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends’ social media sites,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

May 25, 2010

Even more on social media and privacy

And this one isn’t just limited to Facebook.

Social networking sites may be sharing a lot more of your identifying data with their advertisers than you realize.

From the link:

A report in the Wall Street Journal indicates that a number of social networking sites (including Facebook, MySpace, and Digg) may be sharing users’ personal information with advertisers. Since the Journal started looking into this possible breach of privacy, both Facebook and MySpace have moved to make changes.

The practice is actually a somewhat defensible one–and most of the companies involved did try to defend it–in which the advertisers receive information on the last page viewed before the user clicked on their ad. This is common practice all over the web, and, in most cases, is no issue–advertisers receive information on the last page viewed, which cannot be traced back to the user. In the case of social networking sites, the information on the last page viewed often reveals user names or profile ID numbers that could potentially be used to look up the individuals.

Depending on what those individuals have made public, advertisers can then see anything from hometowns to real names.

The Journal interviewed some of the advertisers who received the data (including Google’s (GOOG) DoubleClick and Yahoo’s (YHOO) Right Media), who said they were unaware of the data and had not used it.

For some reason I find that last claim from DoubleClick and Right Media a bit hard to believe.

May 3, 2010

Yahoo’s Carol Bartz must be high

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:35 pm

That’s the only way to explain her very odd mischaracterization of Google in this BBC article unless she was massively quoted out of context. If she’s running the company and has that poor of mental grasp on the competition, I’d be very, very concerned as a shareholder for the future of the company.

From the link:

“Google is going to have a problem because Google is only known for search,” said Ms Bartz.

“It is only half our business; it’s 99.9% of their business. They’ve got to find other things to do.

“Google has to grow a company the size of Yahoo every year to be interesting.”

Find other things to do? I’m no Google cheerleader (although I absolutely love the Chrome browser), but is she serious? I think I answered that in the previous parenthetical reference. Now I know Bartz was talking about monetized business, but even facing the Facebook threat to online ad revenue I seriously doubt Google has any short- or even mid-term concerns to remaining enormously profitable.

Maybe the tone of the interview was driven by a little industry jealousy. Just for fun let’s compare the recently released Q1 earnings reports for each.

Yahoo! (released April 20, 2010)

revenue: just under $1.6M, up one percent over first quarter 2009

Google (released April 15, 2010)

revenue: $6.77B, up 23 percent over last year’s first quarter

Now that is a difference in revenue. Yahoo is below two million and Google is below seven billion. Good interview, Carol. It’s always smart to call out your competition when you’re operating from a position of strength. Oh, wait …

March 13, 2010

Bing gaining search engine market share …

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:12 pm

… but just barely. I’ve seen more than a few tech stories covering Bing’s modest gains in search engine market share. All well and good, but it’s worth looking at the actual numbers and some of the reasons for that gain. Let’s just say I think the Redmond bunch should probably keep the champagne on ice and heed the advice of Winston Wolf. (In case you don’t remember Wolf, he’s the “Pulp Fiction” character who used a rather colorful idiom to keep Vince and Jules’ ego in check.)

Microsoft is gaining market share, but at a very high cost. Bing has had the living hell marketed out of it, particularly on television. If all that money creates converts who consistently use Bing over Google, and market share keeps growing, it’ll be worth the cost. Right now I’m guessing whatever money Microsoft is earning from Bing is dwarfed by the search engine’s marketing budget. Microsoft has a long and proud history of losing a ton of money in a market area they want to enter and challenge a rival (see: Xbox gaming console.)

Now let’s look at the actual numbers and see just how far behind Google Bing really is, and how it may not be chipping away at the targeted rival at all, but actually stealing market share from its now partner, Yahoo.

From the first link:

December 2009 January 2010 February 2010
Google 72.25% 71.49% 70.95%
Yahoo 14.83% 14.57% 14.57%
Bing 8.92% 9.37% 9.70%

Source: Hitwise

And:

January 2010 February 2010
Google 65.4% 65.5%
Yahoo 17.0% 16.8%
Bing 11.3% 11.5%

Source: comScore

Also from the first link:

Bing search engine may still be a bit player in the lucrative online search business dominated byGoogle, but it’s slowly and steadily gaining users. And it appears that Bing’s share is coming at the expense of both Google (GOOG) and Yahoo, the latter of which recentlyteamed up with Microsoft to be more competitive in online search.

A commenter at the link made a great point that some of this gain could be from Windows 7 users retaining — at least for now — the Bing default search engine option.

February 16, 2009

Internet advertising is drowning …

… in a sea of endless content. This is a case of supply (web pages to advertise on) wildly outstripping demand (eyeballs to view those pages and ads).

From the WSJ:

What does the Internet display-ad market have in common with Zimbabwe?

Both are printing nearly-limitless amounts of their main currency, vastly diminishing its value and undermining their future. The currency, for Web sites, is their ad inventory. And while Zimbabwe, under different management, can change course, the same isn’t true of the display-ad market. Web sites keep generating new content and extra pages on which ads can run.

That is why the sudden sharp weakness in online display advertising, which hit fourth-quarter revenue at companies ranging from Yahoo to Time Warner‘s AOL and New York Times Co., isn’t just about a cyclical downturn caused by the recession.

For sure, part of it is due to depressed demand among advertisers, including those who buy “brand image” ads that suit the display format. AOL, for instance, whose display revenues fell 25% in the quarter, cited “softness” in categories such as “personal finance, technology, autos and retail,” which clearly relate to the economy.

But weak demand is simply highlighting the more fundamental oversupply problem — and pressuring prices. The cost per thousand views of display ads on big Web sites sold through ad networks — rather than sales forces of individual sites, which usually handle premium inventory — fell 54% in the fourth quarter compared with the year earlier, estimates PubMatic, which offers online services to publishers.

September 9, 2008

Infovell mines the deep Web

This may turn out to be a very important tool specifically for research, but really even for basic web searching for detailed information.

From the link:

According to a study by the University of California at Berkeley, traditional search engines such as Google and Yahoo index only about 0.2% of the Internet. The remaining 99.8%, known as the “deep Web,” is a vast body of public and subscription-based information that traditional search engines can’t access.

To dig into this “invisible” information, scientists have developed a new search engine called Infovell geared at helping researchers find often obscure data in the deep Web. As scientists working on the Human Genome Project, Infovell´s founders designed the new searching technology based on methods in genomics research. Instead of using keywords, Infovell accepts much longer search terms, and in any language.

 

And:

Infovell is being demonstrated at DEMOfall08, a conference for emerging technologies taking place in San Diego on September 7-9. Users can sign up for a 30-day risk-free trial at Infovell´s Web site, and Infovell is initially available on a subscription basis. Later this year, Infovell will release a free beta version on a limited basis without some of the advanced features in the premium version.

September 8, 2008

Yahoo-Google pact gets “thumbs down” from ad group

The online ad partnership between Google and Yahoo is opposed by the Association of National Advertisers. The group sent a letter to the Justice Department to voice its concerns.

From the link:

The Association of National Advertisers said on its Web site that the letter to Thomas Barnett, assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, came after a “comprehensive, independent analysis” and meetings with Google and Yahoo executives.

The ANA did not disclose the text of the letter but said it states its concern that “a Google-Yahoo partnership will control 90 percent of search advertising inventory and … will likely diminish competition, increase concentration of market power, limit choices currently available and potentially raise prices to advertisers for high quality, affordable search advertising.”

The ANA says it represents 400 companies – including Apple Inc., The Coca-Cola Co., Exxon Mobil Corp., Proctor & Gamble Co. and General Motors Corp. – with 9,000 brands.

September 3, 2008

Yahoo trading at five-year low

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:47 pm

After all the Microsoft offer/takeover attempt, Yahoo is now trading below $19 per share. The move from Microsoft has cost Yahoo significant market share.

From the AccountantsWorld link:

By Tuesday’s closing bell, Yahoo YHOO shares had dropped 3.3% to close at $18.75. The drop was more pronounced than other tech stocks, which slipped in late-day trading tracking a turnaround in the broader market. The Nasdaq COMP closed the day down nearly 0.8% to 2,349. See Tech Stocks.

Yahoo has shed a large portion of its market value since early this year, when the company was a takeover target in a $47 billion offer from Microsoft MSFT.

The software titan offered to buy Yahoo for $31 per share in a half-cash, half-stock transaction on Feb. 1 — when Yahoo shares were trading just above the $19 mark. Yahoo rejected the offer as undervaluing its business, and the two companies spent the next few months battling over the proposed deal, with Yahoo reportedly holding out for a price closer to $40 per share.

In May, Microsoft upped its offer to $33, and then pulled the offer after failing to come to agreement with Yahoo.

Yahoo was heavily criticized by shareholders for failing to close the deal. The company was targeted in a proxy campaign by billionaire activist Carl Icahn, who eventually won three seats on the board under a settlement with the company. As part of a move to improve its market value, Yahoo struck a deal with search rival Google to outsource some of its search activity in exchange for a portion of ad revenue.

August 15, 2008

Yahoo rolls out Fire Eagle

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:23 am

Fire Eagle is a management system for location data and had only been available to invited users. The service is now open to everyone.

From the Technology Review link:

With Fire Eagle, Coates and Yahoo are betting that location-aware technology is going to be big. The sort of future that Coates envisions is one in which your location can be broadcast to any website, added to your blog, and used to help you search for friends, news, and shopping deals nearby–all with your permission, of course. Fire Eagle, Coates said yesterday, can be the single place that a person needs to visit to set privacy requirements and make sure that the right type of location information (exact address, neighborhood, city, state, and country) is being displayed where you want it.

Here’s how it works: if you go directly to the Fire Eagle site, you can manually set your location; if your computer, cell phone, or GPS navigation unit can find your position, you can have these gadgets send that data automatically to Fire Eagle. When Fire Eagle gets your location, it doesn’t do anything with it until you select the Web services to which you want that information sent. For instance, if you have it sent to Pownce, Fire Eagle will update your location in your activity stream. If you allow Fire Eagle to send your location to a service called Radar, it can show you news stories that occur within 1,000 feet of your position. And there are a handful of services that can use your location information to help you see which friends (who also use the services) are nearby.

August 14, 2008

Wikipedia to enter web search space

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:12 pm

Currently 90% of all web searches are conducted through Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, wants to broaden the search marketplace, and take on some internet giants in the process.

From the PhysOrg.com link:

Wales said Wikia Search will run on an open platform, similar to the principles behind Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia in which entries can be made and edited by anyone with an Internet connection.

“All of the existing search engines are proprietary black boxes,” said Wales. “You have no idea how things are ranked and what’s going on.”

With Wikia Search, users “can participate in meaningful ways” when they browse the Internet, he said.

Coming soon — Online Privacy Bill of Rights?

New legislation is almost never a solution to any problem, real or perceived, but something along these lines might be necessary given the technology out there for collection and mining of data.

I’m not rendering any judgement on the idea of an “online bill of rights” being proposed by Representative Edward Markey (D-Mass.), head of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, since there are no real details to latch on to. One big problem with any legislation is little bits and pieces of odd law always end up in the body of the bill

There are plans to introduce comprehensive online privacy legislation in the next congressional session.

From the second link:

Dubbed the Online Privacy Bill of Rights, the law may require companies to get approval from consumers before collecting information about their Web-surfing habits, a process known as behavioral targeting that helps Web sites more strategically place ads. The legislation may also demand that companies disclose more information on how they collect and use people’s Web-use data. “There is a reasonable chance that we will see something in the next Congress,” says Michael Hintze, an associate general counsel at Microsoft (MSFT).

Watching what you watch

Legislative interest in ad targeting spiked amid recent hearings over a company called NebuAd, which makes devices that attach to the networks of Internet Service Providers and log surfers’ movements(BusinessWeek.com, 8/14/08). Lawmakers are particularly interested in the implications of NebuAd’s technology, known as deep packet inspection (DPI), one of the most comprehensive ways of keeping tabs on what people do online.

An examination of NebuAd prompted congressional staffers to look at ad targeting more broadly. On Aug. 1, Markey’s committee sent letters to 33 companies, including Google (GOOG), Yahoo! (YHOO), and Microsoft, asking each to outline its tracking practices.

Behavioral targeting has come into its own in recent years as companies crafted ever more powerful methods for combing through data. Internet companies have bolstered their ability to target ads through the acquisition of large ad networks able to amass their own information on consumers’ site-viewing habits. During the past year, Microsoft acquired aQuantive, Time Warner’s (TWX) AOL snapped up Tacoda, Google purchased DoubleClick, and Yahoo bought BlueLithium. The use of ad networks surged from 5% of total ad impressions sold in 2006 to 30% in 2007, according to a study released Aug. 12 by the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

Google’s Move Toward Transparency

Markey’s office says the legislation is still in the planning stages. For instance, it’s unclear what kinds of targeting would fall under requirements that companies let consumers opt-in to letting their data be collected and used. Opt-in clauses could apply to DPI only, or they could include less comprehensive targeting, such as the methods employed by companies such as Google and Yahoo.

The industry is already reacting to new scrutiny from Congress and the Federal Trade Commission in an attempt to avoid federal intervention. During the past year, Yahoo, Microsoft, and AOL began allowing people to opt out of tracking on their sites. They also adopted policies for deleting or making search data anonymous after a certain time period. Updated policies were “long overdue,” says Jules Polonetsky, AOL’s chief privacy officer. “After behaving rather glacially, there has been a huge jump forward just in the past year.”

August 10, 2008

Yahoo changes targeted ad policy

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:37 pm

Yahoo is letting users opt out of targeted ads running on its own sites.

From the link:

Yahoo has been offering that opt-out choice only to ads the company runs on outside, partner sites. Yahoo said Friday it now would extend that option to ads displayed on its own sites, to boost users’ trust – and in doing so, perhaps draw visitors from its rivals.

The option will likely be available by the end of the month.

Yahoo spokeswoman Kelley Benander said the change has been in the works for some time, but the company decided to announce it early in response to an inquiry from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, whose subcommittee on the Internet held a hearing last month questioning online advertising practices.

Visitors who decline would still see ads, but not ones delivered through “behavioral targeting” – in which a site displays ads for golf carts, for instance, to visitors who frequent golf sites, even when they are reading about Paris Hilton. Instead, they’d see a generic ad.

The policy change does not affect Yahoo’s other targeted ads, such as those tied to search terms or location

July 8, 2008

Hostile takeover strategy? Replace the board!

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:27 am

Interesting CFO.com story on the hostile takeover strategy of replacing the board of directors that rebuffed the original effort to buy the company. Looks like this is going on with both Microsoft/Yahoo and InBev/Anheuser-Busch

From the link:

The hostile-acquisition strategy of getting a target’s shareholders to replace a resistant board came into sharp focus with announcements today in two of the biggest bids of the year: InBev’s offer for Anheuser-Busch, and Microsoft’s earlier-withdrawn bid for Yahoo.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Belgian brewer InBev NV asked St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch Cos. to set a record date for the $46.3-billion InBev solicitation, which Anheuser rejected last month as insufficient. InBev proposed replacing Anheuser CEO August Busch IV, along with other directors, in favor of a board containing Busch’s uncle, Adolphus Busch IV. The uncle, a great-grandson of the company’s founder, is described as supportive of the bid in a Bloomberg News report on the filing. August Busch, of course, is leading the opposition.

Bloomberg also quoted Wim Hoste, a KBC Securities analyst based in Brussels, as saying that it is “getting less likely that InBev will increase its offer.” He called the InBev bid to replace the board as “a way of keeping up pressure,” so that either the current board talks to InBev, of “a renewed board could be more positive.” He also said, however, that the approach “slows down the pace of the takeover project.”

February 16, 2008

Microsoft/Yahoo redux

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:46 pm

This is a very interesting take on the Microsoft offer for Yahoo.

The gist is MS might not be all that serious in wanting Yahoo (although I’m sure the offer is very real and MS would honor the offer with alacrity.) The Redmond behemoth might just want nothing more than to disrupt Yahoo (successful already, I’d say,) shake up the industry (very successful) and poach Yahoo employees in advance of the potential deal (have no idea about success there.)

The link goes to Slashdot with all those comments, plus additional links in the Slashdot post. Didn’t read the comments, and haven’t really lurked around Slashdot regularly for a long, long time. If it’s anything like it was years ago when I regularly read the site expect some rabid anti-MS action in the comments. Ought to be some decent insider information there as well.

February 1, 2008

Microsoft makes unsolicited offer for Yahoo

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:06 pm

This would shake the internet/tech business world up a bit.

The $44.6 billion bid ($31 per share) is a direct challenge to Google.

From the article:

In conference call Friday morning, Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer indicated he won’t take no for an answer after Yahoo rebuffed takeover overtures a year ago.

“This is a decision we have — and I have — thought long and hard about,” Ballmer said. “We are confident it’s the right path for Microsoft and Yahoo.”

Besides the question of Yahoo’s acceptance, Microsoft’s bid also faces regulatory scrutiny in Washington and Europe. On Friday, the Justice Department said it is “interested” in reviewing antitrust issues. European Union officials declined to comment.

To underscore its resolve, Microsoft is offering a 62 percent premium to Yahoo’s closing stock price Thursday. If the deal is consummated, it would be by far the largest acquisition in Microsoft’s history, eclipsing last year’s $6 billion purchase of online ad service aQuantive.