Sunday, March 26, 2006

What's Wrong with Web 2.0

There's been much discussion about Web 2.0, most of it in the form of heated, passion filled debate. Not unlike the classic Yankees vs Red Sox prose, with the predictable outcome of no winners (nor losers...), and not much reasoning behind any of its arguments, but a lot of emotions arrising from related associations - group identity, pride, taking comfort in the familiarity of the past.

So what IS wrong with Web 2.0?
Web 2.0 is an oxymoron.
I say this for several reasons:
First: Most companies that classify themselves as "web 2.0" are so similar to the "Web 1.0" crop of companies circa 1998, 1999, and 2000 that you wouldn't be able to tell the 1.0 from the 2.0 if we switched the company names and the copyright notice at the bottom of their sites/services/products/plans. In fact you might think in many cases that the 1.0 companies are 2.0 because they tend to be more populated with user focused benefit buzzwords ("uniquity", "stickiness") rather than pseudo technological terms ("ajax").

The complimentary argument holds water as well: most of the new internet companies that typically do not classify themselves as "Web 2.0" tend to be more mature, and advanced from a business standpoint, than those of the past, and in that respect could be coined as the next generation of web companies.

Second: It is also true, however, that the business models for internet services companies have not really changed. Advertising income is the basis for most revenue streams of web companies, and just like before: most such revenues derive from a revenue sharing plan with a big advertising budget aggregator that manages the ad placement/pricing/inventory processes and pays real estate rent to the traffic owners, who are in fact Value Added Resellers of the uber-ad-agency.
In this respect "Web 2.0" is an oxymoron since not much has changed. Surely textual ads based on content context and search terms have grown in popularity, and replaced in a lot of cases the rich media "punch the monkey" banners, scrapers, and what have we. But Bill Gross' GoTo.com (read "Yahoo Marketing Services") has been making revenues on this very model in 1998 and 1999. So what is the logical justification for coining the term "Web 2.0" around it? Is it simply the mix of textual ads versus media ads? Is it the change in the proportion of pay per click ads to CPM ads (both models were available in 1996 and are available in 2006)?

Is this change comparable to what we might call the black and white TV 1.0 to the color TV 2.0? Can we compare it to the radical shift in information consumption and availability that was brought about by the cable industry offering twentyfold viewing options than the state of television at the time when three nationals and some local stations offered their slew of programming?

Of course not. Flickr is a great idea, offering one of the nicest available photo browsing experiences. Tagging, interestingness, and beautiful UI all contribute to the great experience it offers. Its integration into Yahoo makes it even more valuable. And the community infrastructure it lays around the democratic topics created by users are all fabulous. It is much nicer than Yahoo Photos was, to be sure. But, to stick to the TV comparison, it is like comparing Seinfeld to Three's Company. Both sitcoms. One is, arguably, more entertaining, created a huge following, in fact it created a pseudo cult following in the corporate world when citations were heard all over meeting rooms, and the the creators' and actors' financial rewards were much greater. But was TV as a whole transformed to become TV 2.0 due to Seinfeld? I really don't think so.

Web 2.0, the term, is the child of the mistreated turn of the century internet industry. Mistreated because it was first overinflated and then over deflated.
In fact, founding an internet company in the years 2001, 2002, and 2003 was literally politically incorrect. Almost like walking around with a polyester suit.
This created a true need for legitimacy for the people behind newly budding internet companies.
But it is the very overinflation and obsession with classification that creates the inevitable over deflation that follows.

Now, as people are once again starting to think in loosely coined terms, the inflation factor is starting to show again. The inflation, thus far, has been more applicable to concepts and terms than to actual market valuation (at least of private companies acquired).

So what is wrong with Web 2.0? Nothing but the term itself.

What's Wrong with Web 2.0

There's been much discussion about Web 2.0, most of it in the form of heated, passion filled debate. Not unlike the classic Yankees vs Red Sox prose, with the predictable outcome of no winners (nor losers...), and not much reasoning behind any of its arguments, but a lot of emotions arrising from related associations - group identity, pride, taking comfort in the familiarity of the past.

So what IS wrong with Web 2.0?
Web 2.0 is an oxymoron.
I say this for several reasons:
First: Most companies that classify themselves as "web 2.0" are so similar to the "Web 1.0" crop of companies circa 1998, 1999, and 2000 that you wouldn't be able to tell the 1.0 from the 2.0 if we switched the company names and the copyright notice at the bottom of their sites/services/products/plans. In fact you might think in many cases that the 1.0 companies are 2.0 because they tend to be more populated with user focused benefit buzzwords ("uniquity", "stickiness") rather than pseudo technological terms ("ajax").

The complimentary argument holds water as well: most of the new internet companies that typically do not classify themselves as "Web 2.0" tend to be more mature, and advanced from a business standpoint, than those of the past, and in that respect could be coined as the next generation of web companies.

Second: It is also true, however, that the business models for internet services companies have not really changed. Advertising income is the basis for most revenue streams of web companies, and just like before: most such revenues derive from a revenue sharing plan with a big advertising budget aggregator that manages the ad placement/pricing/inventory processes and pays real estate rent to the traffic owners, who are in fact Value Added Resellers of the uber-ad-agency.
In this respect "Web 2.0" is an oxymoron since not much has changed. Surely textual ads based on content context and search terms have grown in popularity, and replaced in a lot of cases the rich media "punch the monkey" banners, scrapers, and what have we. But Bill Gross' GoTo.com (read "Yahoo Marketing Services") has been making revenues on this very model in 1998 and 1999. So what is the logical justification for coining the term "Web 2.0" around it? Is it simply the mix of textual ads versus media ads? Is it the change in the proportion of pay per click ads to CPM ads (both models were available in 1996 and are available in 2006)?

Is this change comparable to what we might call the black and white TV 1.0 to the color TV 2.0? Can we compare it to the radical shift in information consumption and availability that was brought about by the cable industry offering twentyfold viewing options than the state of television at the time when three nationals and some local stations offered their slew of programming?

Of course not. Flickr is a great idea, offering one of the nicest available photo browsing experiences. Tagging, interestingness, and beautiful UI all contribute to the great experience it offers. Its integration into Yahoo makes it even more valuable. And the community infrastructure it lays around the democratic topics created by users are all fabulous. It is much nicer than Yahoo Photos was, to be sure. But, to stick to the TV comparison, it is like comparing Seinfeld to Three's Company. Both sitcoms. One is, arguably, more entertaining, created a huge following, in fact it created a pseudo cult following in the corporate world when citations were heard all over meeting rooms, and the the creators' and actors' financial rewards were much greater. But was TV as a whole transformed to become TV 2.0 due to Seinfeld? I really don't think so.

Web 2.0, the term, is the child of the mistreated turn of the century internet industry. Mistreated because it was first overinflated and then over deflated.
In fact, founding an internet company in the years 2001, 2002, and 2003 was literally politically incorrect. Almost like walking around with a polyester suit.
This created a true need for legitimacy for the people behind newly budding internet companies.
But it is the very overinflation and obsession with classification that creates the inevitable over deflation that follows.

Now, as people are once again starting to think in loosely coined terms, the inflation factor is starting to show again. The inflation, thus far, has been more applicable to concepts and terms than to actual market valuation (at least of private companies acquired).

So what is wrong with Web 2.0? Nothing but the term itself.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Exclusive: Google Launches Personalized Search




This seems to be be a Searching Engine exclusive, you read it here first:

Google has launched Personalized Search, a search mode that reranks results according to what the 'personalization engine' assumes best fitting to a particular user in a particular query.

The feature was likely rolled out Sunday as an experiment on a control group (would be hard to otherwise explain the lack of press coverage).

Personalized Search is automatically turned on for relevant searches. Relevant searches seem to be those whose SERPs include results that have been retrieved and selected in the past (not necessarily by the same query) and that have been saved by Google Search History.

For the query term "pointask" personalized search turned itself on, and ranked as number three on the first page, a result that I have selected in the past, and is normally presented in SERP number 8 or so.

The user receives an indication by a link reading "Turn OFF Personalized Search for these results »" right alligned below the search area. Clicking on the link repeats the query but with personalized search truned off. The toggle link offers to turn personalized search on again. The variable in the url for personal search status is pws, receiving binary values for on and off. (http://www.google.com/search?q=pointask&hl=en&lr=&sa=N&pws=1&pwst=1&start=0).


Monday, August 08, 2005

» Yahoo's new search master | Between the Lines | ZDNet.com

Friday, July 29, 2005

Search Inside

So I've had the opportunity to meet with some interesting people from some of the leading search companies. and experienced first hand the cut throat competitive atomosphere in the industry. Heard some interesting ideas of what these folks are up to.

I am now on my way to NY, and will publish as soon as we land. Expect some interesting stories in the next few days.

--
Sent from my Treo

Monday, July 18, 2005

MSN's Search Builder

MSN's Search Builder, its advanced search form, is accessible through a link found on its front page and its search results pages. Clicking the link opens a mini form on the page, hiding a small portion of the page, leaving most information on current page at the user's disposal (pushing the results down instead of covering the top of the page with the Search Builder form, would let users see all information).

The form assists users in articulating advanced queries. The users' term input and condition selections on the Search Builder form are appended to the main search entry by clicking the "Add to Search" button. Users can learn the direct input operator and variable names by observing the appended parameters.

The form is organized into six sections by vertical tabs. The sections are, in order of appearance:

  • Search Terms: allows users to add keyword/phrase and apply the following boolean conditions to them :
    1. All of These Terms ('AND') MSN's default keyword processing, terms are simply appended to current query),
    2. Any of These Terms ('OR') a parenthesis containing the terms is appended to the query. The terms in the perenthesis are related by an 'OR'
    3. This Exact Phrase exact phrase is appended in quotes to current query,
    4. None of These Items ('NOT'), a parenthesis containing the terms is appended to the query with a minus sign in front of it. So it acts as a Search W NOT (X AND Y). (wording appears to be wrong: either [1] terms should be relatedby an 'OR', or [2] this option should be called "Exclude Results With All These").
  • Site/Domain: limit results to those from a specified domain (site:), or exclude results from the specified domain (-site:).
  • Links to: limits the search to results from pages that link to a specified domain (link:).
  • Country/Region: limits the search to results from a selected country (MSN uses 'loc:' and a two letter country code).
  • Language: limits the search to results in a selected language (MSN uses 'language:' and a two letter language code).
  • Results Ranking: users can set three configuration sliders to control the ranking of the search results:
    1. Update recently/Static ("recently added" seems more appropriate): tilts the ranking towards/against sites that had been recently added to MSN's index. MSN uses the parameter {frsh=] with values of 0, for emphasizing veteran indexed sites, to 100, for emphasizing newly added sites.
    2. Very Popular/less popular ("linked to" seems more accurate, popularity could imply user clck level, or site popularity): tilts the results towards/against sites according to the amount of incoming links they have pertaining to the terms. MSN uses the parameter {popl=] with values of 0, for emphasizing less linked sites, to 100, for highly linked sites.
    3. Approximate match/exact match: tilts the results towards/against results that have a close match to the query, apparently according to the distance between the terms in the document and their complete presence in the document. MSN uses the parameter {mtch=] with values of 0, for emphasizing closely matching results, to 100, for less accurately matching results.
Got to go. To be continued soon.
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Thursday, July 14, 2005

Birth Report: The Searching Engine

Passionate about search? How could one not be...

This Searching Engine will take a profound look at Search Engine industry trends and strategy. It will look at all stakeholders: the players, the publishers, the advertisers, and users.

To keep it all in perspective, it will also take the Product Management view on various search engines: analyzing their functionality, features, and performance, and provide suggested requirements for new features and enhancements of current ones.

It will also provide a higher level market analysis, to keep requirements in perspective of the bigger picture.
The objective is to have strategy and vision covered alongside detail and specifics.

I welcome feedback, especially from Search industry professionals of all levels, and am looking forward to lively collaboration, sharing of views, and all forms of great discussions around the subject we all care so much about.