Business, Entertainment, Technology, Web

Analyzing internet search – more than what you could guess

Analysis of the web searches of people all over the world has provided some interesting answers and the adult search content is not even among the top 3 in volume.

Some major trends in the internet search:

  1. Maximum searches are for social media sites, be that facebook or linkedin, but why do people still search for these sites??
  2. Second rank holders are the video sites, that will be youtube by far.
  3. Next comes the email providers like yahoo, gmail, hotmail, etc.
  4. Fourth rank is taken up by adult search content.

Now, while trying to understand the logic of searches the world over, there are more interesting things that pop up.

  1. People like to do searches just for being sure that spelling is right. There are multiple reasons for that, some users do not want to take a risk of going to other site by mistake and some others find it easier than typing the whole text.
  2.  Most searches do not have any meaning. The search for meaningless words is very high, much higher that they command a huge traffic volume. Take for example asdf, qwertyuiop, etc. These have become huge because people search for them out of boredom and these are the easiest ones to search from keyboard.
  3. Then there are people who do not have time or are just lazy enough that they even want to search than finding the link on page. Classic example is people searching for facebook login on google than on facebook website.
  4. Search for public personalities is on a huge rise with the popularity of people from business, sports and entertainment field generating a lot of interest due to the availability of information online.
  5. People do search for adult content and these are the only top searches which are less focused on a site and more on generic verbs/nouns.

All definitions of what internet was made for have changed over times and so have the search engine purposes.

It would be interesting to hear what our readers think has been changing in the world of internet search. Please do put down your thoughts below.

 

Source: Google Zeitgeist, Mike’s marketing tools, AOL’s top searches

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Strategy, Web

Synergies arising from Facebook – Friendfeed deal

In my earlier post, I wrote about the Bing-Yahoo search deal and how it was beneficial to both parties, with Microsoft potentially reaping bigger benefits over a longer term. Today another important deal happened. Friendfeed, a popular real time microblogging tool – similar, much more advanced in functionality, but much less popular than Twitter, was taken over by Facebook. According to the official friendfeed blog, FriendFeed accepted Facebook’s friend request!

friendfeed-facebookTwitter has taken a step towards making real time search its prime focus with the recent redesign of its homepage. At my first read, it seemed as a move against allowing twitter to run away with the real-time search. Real time search is a big area where a lot of biggies, including top internet VCs are placing their bets on. However, this could even be a long term strategic decision – particularly with Google entering this arena with Wave and a whole community of developers already creating new applications using its APIs. Facebook has anticipated the development that may take place once Wave goes live and has taken steps to strengthen its position – which is a thoughtful management step in my opinion.

Potential mutual benefits of this deal include:

1. Facebook can integrate brilliant friendfeed features like Real time comments. Note that some of the very popular friendfeed features were included later in facebook, but thats another matter altogether.

2. Friendfeed community can benefit due to superior user profiles, facebook apps, friend connect and multimedia features on facebook.

3. Also, the userbase of facebook would imply that friendfeed’s cool features can now reach a wider audience all over the globe.

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4. Where facebook can benefit is the perhaps the search functionality as well. I was a semi-active friendfeed user (I have a friendfeed widget on my personal blog even now) , and loved the functionality it offered. Facebook today launched a real time search which promises to change the fundamentals of this upcoming field as well.

Finally, there are already many articles online saying Facebook + friendfeed is a potential twitter killer etc. I don’t quite buy that argument. Facebook offers something unique to its users – an unparalleled social network experience where the unit of social interaction is a ‘friend’, while twitter is a pure implementation of the ‘follow’ model of social interaction. A place where facebook has implemented the Follow model brilliantly is Facebook pages– a topic i covered earlier as well. In my opinion, both services- friendfeed & facebook are amazing and I am sure, the deal will be great for both companies.

One thing for sure, the deal promises a lot and will bring greater pace in the development of the real time search aspect of the web industry.

What do you think of this deal, put in your comments about it right below!

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Technology

The WHY of BingHoo! – Bing – Yahoo deal

July 29 was truly a momentous day. First, we saw this huge re-positioning of twitter. Twitter has moved away from the social networking focus on homepage (where facebook is dominant anyways) to a people powered search engine focus– where it is clearly dominant. While that is quite significant, nothing could beat the importance of the announcement coming from Yahoo HQ & Microsoft HQ about the Search deal.

Firstly, a report about the Search Engine Market shares- US for May/June 2009- table republished here:

search_engine_rankings

Some quotes from the official Microsoft press release and what they imply:

Microsoft will now power Yahoo! search while Yahoo! will become the exclusive worldwide relationship sales force for both companies’ premium search advertisers.

Microsoft would now sit on the most popular web portal in the world as its default search engine, even when Yahoo! search had a greater marketshare than Bing. This would imply that Yahoo would henceforth not benefit from any advances in the search engine industry. Note that Search engine monetization is a huge business in itself. It is a  step-back for Yahoo in search, thats for sure . Yahoo has pushed itself back from a leader role to a marketer/ sales-person role in this space. It can be considered as a de-facto admission from Yahoo! that they could do nothing to stop Google’s superiority in the search engine market.On the other hand, it is even a free license for Microsoft to launch a full scale attack on Google’s hitherto unquestioned Search engine supermacy. On his recent visit to India, Bill Gates had said

Google’s in this kind of honeymoon…actually, their honeymoon is slowly but surely coming to an end. And, that’s fine. Our honeymoon came to an end and theirs has to come to end, too. And then, they will be just a normal company.

Perhaps, he gave us clues about this tieup with this statement itself. The question is, will the combined efforts of Microsoft and Yahoo have a tangible impact on Google’s marketshare?

2. The Yahoo perspective:

“This agreement comes with boatloads of value for Yahoo!, our users, and the industry. And I believe it establishes the foundation for a new era of Internet innovation and development,” said Yahoo! Chief Executive Officer Carol Bartz. “Users will continue to experience search as a vital part of their Yahoo! experiences and will enjoy increased innovation thanks to the scale and resources this deal provides. Advertisers will also benefit from scale and enjoy greater ease of use and efficiencies working with a single platform and sales team for premium advertisers. Finally, this deal will help us increase our investments in priority areas in winning audience properties, display advertising capabilities and mobile experiences.”

This statement talks big, but what are they aiming at? While I agree that Search is just one aspect of Yahoo’s product offering, its an extremely important aspect in my opinion. This deal would give Microsoft’s Bing a huge promotional push through all Yahoo’s products, most notably Yahoo! Mail. It is even a change of focus- as a Media company– for Yahoo as well, in continuation with recent changes on Yahoo homepage.

3. Clear attack on search monopoly of Google:

Providing a viable alternative to advertisers, this deal will combine Yahoo! and Microsoft search marketplaces so that advertisers no longer have to rely on one company that dominates more than 70 percent of all search. With the addition of Yahoo!’s search volume, Microsoft will achieve the size and scale required to unleash competition and innovation in the market, for consumers as well as advertisers.

This aspect of the statement is the most visionary. It shows the ambition of both Yahoo! and Bing to stake their claim on the search engine pie. Advertisers will now truly have an alternative to Google AdWords and AdSense. Once the regulatory approvals are done and this deal is in action, we could see some serious competition between the two Ad-Platforms.

4. Benefits for Bing have been clearly highlighted by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in this statement:

“Through this agreement with Yahoo!, we will create more innovation in search, better value for advertisers and real consumer choice in a market currently dominated by a single company,” said Ballmer. “Success in search requires both innovation and scale.  With our new Bing search platform, we’ve created breakthrough innovation and features.  This agreement with Yahoo! will provide the scale we need to deliver even more rapid advances in relevancy and usefulness.  Microsoft and Yahoo! know there’s so much more that search could be.  This agreement gives us the scale and resources to create the future of search.”

Opinion: Is this deal ‘only bad’ for Yahoo? Not at all! On July 29, we read tweets about how Yahoo has gone down fighting etc, but I feel these were extremely myopic. Yahoo has determined that its core competency is ‘the World’s leading online Media company’ and its a huge area in itself. They are unquestionably the world’s most active portal. Yahoo may have identified its core competency perfectly here. They determined that investing resources into areas they were dominant in would provide greater returns for them, instead of fighting (perhaps a losing battle) with powerhouses like Google and Microsoft. It may turn out to be a great step after all.

But, history and market reactions point otherwise. Yahoo stock price plummeted close to 12% as a reaction to this release (Source) Also, on the web, dependency on some other site for a function like search may prove to be a death-knell. Again, by history,the reference is to the blunder Yahoo did sometime back because of which Google became the undisputed leader.

The future: Subject to regulatory approvals, Google will have a competitor to reckon with – a 28% combined market share is pretty significant. As Ballmer rightly pointed out, the more the people search, more you(the service provider) learn. A full scale search engine war awaits us, thats for sure!

PS: I have tried to be as objective as possible. Yet, I am a self confessed fan of both firms, so pardon me if I went overboard with imposing my opinions.

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Business, Strategy, Web

Microsoft back with a BING?

Is Microsoft back in internet search with the new web search service BING?

The biggest buzz in the search/web/internet domains from the past couple of days has been Microsoft Bing! It has been deemed by some as better than Google, by others as comparable to google and by a few the engine which will dethrone Google. I will give such big claims a rest and in this post I will emphasize on how BING can create a bang in the search market space and bring Microsoft live again in the market!

Search, as you know, is a big upsurging industry (yes, even today it is) and the giants like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have been fighting to improve their share in the market. Microsoft has been eyeing opportunities to improve the user percentage since more than a year now. It started with huge investments in the MS Live search engine. Lets us step back and see what Google has done to the definition of information retrival over the internet! Google created a path breaking search engine which fractured the market space completely and turned it around to its favor. If we divide according to user space, roughly 70% people use Google, 20% people use Yahoo and around 10% use the Live Search. Google changed the whole scene, much to the jitters of Yahoo and Microsoft. Let us now see what Microsoft Bing can do?

Bing has received positive response from critics and a lot of attention from experts. Coveted to be a “decision engine”, Bing is no less than Google infact some would go ahead and suggest that it better than Google. Such claims are subjective to people. But I would like to point that even if Bing is better than Google it will need a lot of visibility, campaign and effort to beat the giant Google. It will be a long time for Bing to beat Google.

If you think so Microsoft has launched Bing to beat Google, you are WRONG! Bing is a harbinger of change for Microsoft and the search market will shake & shuffle but for now, Bing is contesting for the second spot (Yahoo) and not the first (Google). Let me remind you, in the March of 2008, Microsoft flexed its muscles to buy Yahoo and merge it with Live search in a bid to compete with Google. It failed miserably much to respite of Google! But now, what I see is at the end of an year, Microsoft has developed a fantastic service which will surely eat up share from both Google and Yahoo. I feel Bing will quickly be the second player in the search market, and a tough competition to beat.

Search Engine experts state that Yahoo has always been the “alternative” to queries for which Google did not produce relevant/satisfying results. Rarely, do people use Yahoo as their first choice of search engine. Bing, can easily be the next Yahoo, i.e. the next “alternative”. But I doubt it can beat Google so easily. Why? It has nothing to do with what Google/Bing can or cannot do. Its about behavioural psychology; its just that, Google is now a habit. It will be difficult for so many people to migrate from Google to Bing which although is great but not path breakingly different from Google!

Nonetheless, it is a win-win situation for Microsoft as they gain market space. I think counterparts at Google and Yahoo can feel the BING even now. Who knows BING might get Microsoft a bargain from Yahoo for a buyout in the coming time!! Personally I feel, Bing will surely BANG. Please post you comments below.

Disclaimer: All the views presented are personal (I hope I have been rational as well) and Microsoft does not endorse views presented above. (I am an employee of Microsoft you see!)

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Business, Marketing, Planning, Strategy, Web

Search Engine, Computational Knowledge Engine & Decision Engine!

I don’t know if the title is able to make is clear enough but this article is actually about Google (the search engine), Wolfram Alpha (the computational knowledge engine) and Bing (Microsoft’s decision engine).

After a decent period of time suddenly the search engine space is again getting hotter, the competition is increasing, new features are being launched and now the entire world has fallen in love with the word ‘engine‘. Although everyone still uses Google and is also quite satisfied with the performance but suddenly people are wanting more! People’s appetite for technology has increased and they are looking for more solutions.

Another #@$$@$#@% Engine! When Wolfram Alpha was launched a lot of people claimed it to be the ‘next google killer’! Wolfram Alpha conveyed itself differently as a computational knowledge engine, they claimed not to be competing with Google and in many ways are not! Now with the launch of Microsoft’s Bing approaching the limelight has shifted. Bing has branded itself as a decision engine! But at least they are not claiming to be not competing with Google (Thank God! Microsoft is atleast admiting the truth, why else would they launch Bing?) Ultimately you can call your new project ‘#$@#%$#@# Engine‘ but everyone knows that it is just a branding excersize and it is ultimately a ‘Search Engine‘.

What would be the perfect search engine? The perfect search engine will be the one without any search button and with just a “I’m feeling lucky” button, where one can be sure that once he types something the first result will be exactly the perfect result for his/her query. The day we achieve this, the day we know exactly what the user is asking and are able to deliver the perfect result without any error, that day the search engine will become perfect. ( I think I heard someone in Google say this but I was not able to find it over the net again. I guess search engines do need improvement afterall )

Microsoft’s Bing! (Every time I hear the word I get reminded of Chandler Bing from Friends) is awaited eagerly. Will renaming its search engine work? I really don’t know. Microsoft spent tons of money rebranding Msn Search to Live Search, and are now spending a lot of money rebranding Live Search to Bing! I really don’t get it sometimes. Windows XP to Windows Vista and now Windows Vista to Windows 7. Maybe the branding strategies is something I am not able to understand. Will the search engine work? Well the previews are encouraging. It seems a lot of common sense fed into a search engine can be good. Afterall a good number of words put into the search engine can be classified into products, services, nounds, information keywords and such categories. Having customized display of results for each can definitely help the user. However this categorization probably cannot be automated completely and here lies a small drawback of the excersize. A good attempt by Bing! and I am eagerly awaiting its release.

Interestingly enough probably the last time the search market became so intense was during another major recession near 2000 when Google was born! Will this time give birth to another billion dollar company? I guess we all have to find out!

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Strategy, Web

Wolfram Alpha – A threat to Google?

Wolfram alpha – a computational “Answer” engine was launched on May 15, 2009. Named after the creator, British physicist Stephen Wolfram, the answer engine has created more than a few ripples in the Internet enthusiasts since its launch. This article is perhaps among the first articles, if not the first, on any Indian blog about what might well be the future of search.

So, what makes Wolframalpha special?  To quote the founder Mr. Wolfram himself, this isn’t a search engine but a ‘Computational Knowledge Engine’. While the Google fanatics may call this an attempt NOT to attract competition from the Mountain view based firm, perhaps this may also indicate a different approach to search as well. Clearly, Wolfram alpha is trying answer the search query on its site itself, rather than give links and pageranks of webpages which may contain answers to the query. This is perhaps a very fundamental difference, and well in line with what Mr. Wolfram said about the universe – The entire universe is giant calculator running for billions of years.

The Wolfram Alpha interfaceThe economist, in this article summarizes the concept behind Wolfram Alpha beautifully,

Alpha, in short, acts like a nerdy reference librarian who is equipped with the latest calculators and endless stacks of books and encyclopedias. Hit upon the right subject and it will excel at calculating airflow around a surface, showing the distribution patterns for DNA base pairs in human genes, spitting out prime numbers or computing and comparing crucial statistics for various national economies. Yet simple queries such as “climate change” or “Gordon Brown” will yield the equivalent of an empty stare.The engine actually works by applying code used in Mathematica (a set of mathematical tools used to perform elaborate calculations, solve equations and build models) to a vast store of curated data that a team of around 200 experts working under Dr Wolfram’s direction has amassed, scanned, processed and correlated over the past couple of years. So far, he says, his repository contains between 10 billion and 20 billion elements of data.

Now, let us look at this in the context of search engines .As written by Atul in a previous article about the future of search engines, Google commands a huge 70% market share. Perhaps the approach by Wolfram alpha may change the fundamentals of the search engine market. If wolfram alpha’s approach is to be considered, perhaps, search may become a question-and-answer type of model in future. Something that AskJeeves tried but didn’t succeed at. Right now, there are huge shortcomings of this search engine and it doesn’t even cover 5% of what google covers, but here is someone who has tried a different approach to the search problem. Also, the very fact that Google has launched a new Search technique called Google Sqaured tells us how seriously Google is looking at Wolfram alpha.

Lots of questions remain unanswered –

  • Is Wolframalpha’s approach to search sustainable over a longer term? Can any search engine answer all questions of the world?
  • Would Google squared make Google a better search engine?
  • And finally, the title to Atul’s post – Where are search Engines headed, say 5 years from now?

Clearly, times in the internet world are extremely exciting…

Until the next time, keep ‘strat.in’g!

PS: We started a facebook fan page 5 days back and have got 48 fans till the time I publish this post. I take this opportunity, on behalf of Team Strat.in to thank all our readers and encourage the new readers to sign up on our facebook fan page too!

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