Category Archives: Google

Google files patent for recognizing text in images

Google has filed a patent application in July 2007, which has just recently become public claiming methods where robots can read and understand text in images and video. The basic idea here is Google to be able to index videos and images and made them available and searchable by text or keywords located inside the image or the video. Aside Google Inc. the application was filed by Luc Vincent from Palo Alto, Calif. and Adrian Ulges from Delaware, US. The inventors are Luc Vincent and Adrian Ulges.

Digital images can include a wide variety of content. For example, digital images can illustrate landscapes, people, urban scenes, and other objects. Digital images often include text. Digital images can be captured, for example, using cameras or digital video recorders. Image text (i.e., text in an image) typically includes text of varying size, orientation, and typeface. Text in a digital image derived, for example, from an urban scene (e.g., a city street scene) often provides information about the displayed scene or location. A typical street scene includes, for example, text as part of street signs, building names, address numbers, and window signs.”

If Google manages to implement that technology the consumer search will be taken to the next level and Google would have an access to much wider array of information far beyond the text only search it already plays a leading role in.

This, of course, raises some additional privacy issues as being properly noted by InformationWeek. Gogole had already privacy issues with Google Maps Street View and if that technology starts to index and recognize textual information from millions of videos and billions of pictures around Web things might go more complicated.
 
Nonetheless if that technology bears the fruits it promises it will represent a gigantic leap forward in the progression of the general search technology.

There are open sources solutions to the problem. Perhaps not scalable and effective as it would be if Google develops it, yet they do exist.

Andrey Kucherenko from Ukraine is known to have made a very interesting project in that aspect. His classes can recognize text in monochrome graphical images after a training phase. The training phase is necessary to let the class build recognition data structures from images that have known characters. The training data structures are used during the recognition process to attempt to identify text in real images using the corner algorithm. His project is called PHPOCR and more information can be found over here.

PHPOCR have won the PHPClasses innovation awards of March 2006, and it shows the power of what could be implemented with PHP5. Certain types of applications require reading text from documents that are stored as graphical images. That is the case of scanned documents.

An OCR (Optical Character Recognition) tool can be used to recover the original text that is written in scanned documents. These are sophisticated tools that are trained to recognize text in graphical images.

This class provides a base implementation for an OCR tool. It can be trained to learn how to recognize each letter drawn in an image. Then it can be used to recognize longer texts in real documents.

Another very interesting start-up believed to be heavily deploying text recognition inside videos is CastTV. The company is based in San Francisco and over its just $3M in funding is trying to build one of the Web’s best video search engines. CastTV lets users find all their favorite online videos, from TV shows to movies to the latest celebrity, sports, news, and viral Internet videos. The company’s proprietary technology addresses two main video search challenges: finding and cataloging videos from the web and delivering relevant video results to users.

CastTV was one of the presenters at Techcrunch40 and was there noticed by Marissa Mayer from Google. She asked CastTV the following question: “Would like to know more about your matching algo for the video search engines?”. CastTV then replied: “We have been scaling as the video market grows – relevancy is a very tough problem – we are matching 3rd party sites and supplementing the meta data.”

Today we see Marissa’s question in the light of the patent application above and the context seems quite different and the answer from CastTV did not address Google’s concerns. Does CastTV work on something similar to what the patent is trying to cover for Google? We do not know but the time will tell. CastTV’s investors are Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Ron Conway. Hope they make a nice exit from CastTV.
 
Adobe has also some advances in that particular area. You can use Acrobat to recognize text in previously scanned documents that have already been converted to PDF. OCR (Optical Character Recognition) runs with header/footer/Bates number on image PDF files.

It is also interesting that Microsoft had, in fact, applied for a very similar patent (called “Visual and Multi-Dimensional Search“). Even more interesting here is the fact that MS had beaten Google to the punch by filing three days earlier – Microsoft filed on June 26, 2007, while Google filed on June 29.

Full abstract, description and claims can be read below:

More

http://google.com
http://www.wipo.int/pctdb/en/ia.jsp?IA=US2007072578&DISPLAY=STATUS
http://www.techmeme.com/080104/p23
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/01/04/google-lodges-patent-for-reading-text-in-images-and-video/
http://www.webmasterworld.com/goog/3540344.htm
http://enterprise.phpmagazine.net/2006/04/recognize_text_objects_in_grap.html
http://www.phpclasses.org/browse/package/2874.html
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/casttv
http://www.casttv.com/
http://www.google.com/corporate/execs.html
http://www.centernetworks.com/techcrunch40-search-and-discovery
http://www.setthings.com/2008/01/04/recognizing-text-in-images-patent-by-google/
http://help.adobe.com/en_US/Acrobat/8.0/Professional/help.html?content=WS2A3DD1FA-CFA5-4cf6-B993-159299574AB8.html
http://www.techcrunch40.com/
http://www.therottenword.com/2008/01/microsoft-beats-google-to-image-text.html

Some of the web’s biggest acquisition deals during 2007

As the end of the year approaches us we would like to briefly sum up some of the web’s biggest acquisition deals for the 2007, as we know them. 

All deals will logically be ranked by their sizes and less weight will be put on the time the deal happened through out the year. Deals from all IT industry sectors are considered and put in the list, from Web and Internet to the Mobile industry as well. The size’s criterion for a deal to make the list is to be arguably no less than $100M unless the deal is symbolic in one way or another or either of the companies involved was popular enough at the time the deal took place. Otherwise we think all deals are important, at least for its founders and investors.

Under no doubt the year we will remember with the number of high-profile advertising company acquisitions for large-scale companies like DoubleClick, aQuantive, RightMedia, 24/7 Real Media, among others. Putting all acquisition deals aside, one particular funding deal deserves to be mentioned too Facebook raised $240 million from Microsoft in return of just 1.6% of its equity. The Honk Kong Billionaire Li Ka-shing later joined the club of high-caliber investors in Facebook by putting down $60M for unknown equity position.  

Other remarkable funding deals include: Alibaba.com raised $1.3 Billion from its IPO; Kayak raised $196 Million; Demand Media took $100 Million in Series C; Zillow totaled $87 Million in venture capital funding; Joost announced $45 million funding from Sequoia, Index, CBS & Viacom, among others. 

Yet another noteworthy deal is the Automattic (wordpress.org) turning down a $200 Million Acquisition Offer. 

And the 2007 Web 2.0 Money winner is… Navteq for its deal with Nokia for $8B. Apparently Microsoft has this year lost the crown of being named the deepest pocket buyer.

Nokia Buys Navteq For $8 Billion, Bets Big On Location-Based Services

Nokia (NOK), the Finnish mobile phone giant with nearly a third of the global handset market, has decided to bet big on location based services (LBS), and is buying Chicago-based digital map company NAVTEQ (NVT) for $8.1 billion. That works out to about $78 a share. This is one of Nokia’s largest purchases to date — the Finnish mobile giant has a mixed track record when it comes to acquisitions. This is also the second megabillion dollar buyout in the maps (LBS) space.

SAP Germany makes its biggest deal ever – acquires Business Objects for 4.8B EURO (around ~$6.8 billion)

SAP, the world’s largest maker of business software, has agreed to acquire Business Objects SA for €4.8 billion euros, which was around ~$6.8 billion at the time the acquisition deal was announced. The deal is amongst the largest for 2007 alongside with Oracle’s Hyperion deal for over $3.3B and the Nokia’s Navteq for over $8B. [more]

Microsoft to buy Web ad firm aQuantive for $6 Billion

Microsoft Corp. acquired aQuantive Inc. for about $6 billion, or $66.50 a share, an 85 percent premium to the online advertising company’s closing price at the time the deal was publicly announced. Shares of aQuantive shot to $63.95 in pre-opening trade, following news of the deal. The all-cash deal tops a dramatic consolidation spree across the online advertising market sparked when Google Inc. agreed to buy DoubleClick for $3.1 billion.

Oracle to buy Hyperion in $3.3 Billion cash deal

Oracle Corp. has acquired business intelligence software vendor Hyperion Solutions Corp. for $3.3 billion in cash. Oracle has agreed to pay $52 per share for Hyperion, or about $3.3 billion, a premium of 21% over Hyperion’s closing share price at the time of the deal. Oracle said it will combine Hyperion’s software with its own business intelligence (BI) and analytics tools to offer customers a broad range of performance management capabilities, including planning, budgeting and operational analytics.

Cisco Buys WebEx for $3.2 Billion

Cisco has agreed to acquire WebEx for $3.2 billion in cash. In 2006, WebEx generated nearly $50 million in profit on $380 million in revenue. They have $300 million or so in cash on hand, so the net deal value is $2.9 billion.

DoubleClick Acquired by Google For $3.1 Billion In Cash

Google reached an agreement to acquire DoubleClick, the online advertising company, from two private equity firms for $3.1 billion in cash, the companies announced, an amount that was almost double the $1.65 billion in stock that Google paid for YouTube late last year. In the last month for this year the US Federal Trade Commission has granted its approval for Google to purchase DoubleClick.

TomTom Bought Tele Atlas for $2.5 Billion

It took $2.5 Billion dollars for TomTom to buy mapping software company TeleAtlas, this will set the stage for TomTom to be big rival of Garmin across Atlantic. Tele Atlas went public in 2000 on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, and last year, it bought another mapping firm, New Hampshire-based GDT.

Naspers acquires yet another European company – Tradus for roughly $1.8 Billion

Simply put a fallen dot com star with eBay ambitious, once worth more than 2B British pound (around $4B) and collapsed down to £62M at the end of 2000 is now being basically said rescued by the South African media company Naspers that is spending money at breakneck pace. The offered price is £946M (more than $1.8B) based on just £60M annual revenues. [more]

HP acquired Opsware For $1.6 Billion

HP has acquired IT Automation company Opsware for $1.6 billion. Whilst any acquisition of this size is interesting in itself, the back story to Opsware is even more so; Opsware was originally LoudCloud, a Web 1.0 company that took $350 million in funding during the Web 1.0 boom.

AOL acquired TradeDoubler for $900 Million

AOL has acquired Sweden-based TradeDoubler, a performance marketing company, for €695 million in cash, which was about US$900 million at the time the deal took place.

Microsoft acquired Tellme Networks for reportedly $800 Million

Microsoft Corp. has announced it will acquire Tellme Networks, Inc., a leading provider of voice services for everyday life, including nationwide directory assistance, enterprise customer service and voice-enabled mobile search. Although the price remains undisclosed, it is estimated to be upwards of $800 million.

Disney acquires Club Penguin for up to $700 Million

Club Penguin, a social network/virtual world that has been on the market for some time, was acquired by The Walt Disney Company. An earlier deal with Sony fell apart over the Club Penguin’s policy of donating a substantial portion of profits to charity. The company, which launched in October 2005, has 700,000 current paid subscribers and 12 million activated users, primarily in the U.S. and Canada.The WSJ says the purchase price is $350 million in cash. Disney could pay up to another $350 million if certain performance targets are reached over the next couple of years, until 2009.

Yahoo acquired RightMedia for $680 Million in cash and stock

Yahoo has acquired the 80% of advertising network RightMedia that it doesn’t already own for $680 million in cash and Yahoo stock. Yahoo previously bought 20% of the company in a $45 million Series B round of funding announced in October 2006. The company has raised over $50 million to date.

WPP Acquires 24/7 Real Media for $649 Million

Online advertising services firm 24/7 Real Media was acquired by the WPP group for $649 million. The old time internet advertising firm had its origins serving ads for Yahoo! and Netscape in 1994 and was formerly founded the following year as Real Media. After numerous acquisitions it took its current name and grew to have 20 offices in 12 countries, serving over 200 billion advertising impressions every month.

Google bought the web security company Postini for $625M

Google has acquired e-mail security company Postini for $625 million, a move intended to attract more large businesses to Google Apps. More than 1,000 small businesses and universities currently use Google Apps, but ‘there has been a significant amount of interest from large businesses,’ Dave Girouard, vice president and general manager of Google Enterprise, said in a Monday teleconference.

EchoStar Acquires Sling Media for $380 Million

EchoStar Communications Corporation, the parent company for DISH Network, has announced its agreement to acquire Sling Media, creator of the Sling suite, which lets you do things like control your television shows at any time, from their computers or mobile phones, or record and watch TV on your PC or Windows-based mobile phone. The acquisition is for $380 million.

ValueClick acquired comparison shopping operator MeziMedia for up to $352 Million

ValueClick has acquired MeziMedia for up to $352 million, in a deal consisting of $100 million in upfront in cash, with an additional sum of up to $252 million to be paid depending on MeziMedia’s revenue and earnings performance through to 2009.

Yahoo Acquires Zimbra For $350 Million in Cash

Yahoo has acquired the open source online/offline office suite Zimbra. The price: $350 million, in cash, confirmed. Zimbra gained wide exposure at the 2005 Web 2.0 Conference. Recently they has also launched an offline functionality.

Business.com Sells for $350 Million

Business.com has closed another chapter in its long journey from a $7.5 million domain name bought on a hope and a prayer, selling to RH Donnelley for $350 million (WSJ reporting up to $360 million). RH Donnelley beat out Dow Jones and the New York Times during the bidding.

AOL acquired online advertising company Quigo for $350 Million

AOL announced plans to buy Quigo and its services for matching ads to the content of Web pages. The acquisition follows AOL’s September purchase of Tacoda, a leader in behavioral-targeting technology, and comes as AOL tries to boost its online advertising revenue to offset declines in Internet access subscriptions.

eBay bought StubHub For $310 Million

eBay has acquired the San Francisco-based StubHub for $285 million plus the cash on StubHub’s books, which is about $25 million.

Yahoo! Agreed to acquire BlueLithium for approximately $300 Million in cash

Yahoo! Inc. has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire BlueLithium, one of the largest and fastest growing online global ad networks that offers an array of direct response products and capabilities for advertisers and publishers. Under the terms of the agreement, Yahoo! will acquire BlueLithium for approximately $300 million in cash.

CBS to buy social network Last.fm for $280 Million

CBS is known to have paid $280 million for the Last.fm site, which caters to music fans. CBS Corp bought the popular social networking website organized around musical tastes for $280 million, combining a traditional broadcast giant with an early leader in online radio. Last.fm, claims more than 15 million monthly users, including more than 4 million in the U.S.

AOL Acquired Tacoda, a behavior targeting advertising company for reportedly $275 Million

AOL has announced the acquisition of New York-based Tacoda earlier this year, a behavior targeting advertising company that was founded in 2001. The deal size, which we haven’t had confirmed, is likely far smaller than Microsoft’s $6 billion for aQuantive , Yahoo’s $680 million for RightMedia , or Google’s $3.1 billion for DoubleClick. The price might be low enough that it isn’t being disclosed at all.Jack Myers Media Business Report has confirmed the $275 million price tag

MySpace to acquire Photobucket For $250 Million

MySpace has acquired Photobucket for $250 million in cash. There is also an earn-out for up to an additional $50 million. Oddly enough MySapce has dropped Photobucket off its social networking platform. The dispute that led to the Photobucket videos being blocked on MySpace letter also led to acquisition discussions, and the block was removed. They have hired Lehman Brothers to help sell the company. They were looking for $300 million or more, but may have had few bidders other than MySpace.

Hitwise Acquired by Experian for $240M

Hitwise, the company that performs analysis of log files from 25 million worldwide ISP accounts to provide relative market share graphs for web properties, has been acquired by Experian for $240 million.

$200+ Million for Fandango

Comcast paid $200 million or perhaps a bit more. Fandango revenue is said to be in the $50m/year range, split roughly evenly between ticket sales and advertising. Wachovia Securities analyst Jeff Wlodarczak estimated the multiple-system operator paid $200 million for Fandango, whose backers include seven of the 10 largest U.S. movie exhibitors.

Intuit Acquires Homestead for $170 Million

Small business website creation service Homestead, started out in the web 1.0 era, announced tonight that it has been acquired by Intuit for $170m. In addition to Intuit’s personal and small business accounting software, and the company’s partnership with Google to integrate services like Maps listing and AdSense buys, Intuit customers will now presumably be able to put up websites quickly and easily with Homestead. [more]

Naspers Acquired Polish based IM Company Gadu Gadu (chit-chat) for reportedly $155 Million

South Africa’s biggest media group Naspers Ltd offered to buy all outstanding shares in Polish Internet firm Gadu Gadu S.A. ( GADU.WA ), a Polish IM service, for 23.50 zlotys ($8.77) per share. The current majority shareholder of Gadu Gadu has agreed to tender its 55% shareholding in the public tender offer. The price is $155M. [more

Studivz, a Germany Facebook clone, went for $132 Million

German Facebook clone Studivz has been sold to one of its investors, Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH, a German publishing group, for €100 million (about $132 million). Other investors of Studivz include the Samwer brothers, founders of ringtone company Jamba (sold for €270M) and Alando (sold to eBay for €43M in 1999).

Feedburner goes to Google for $100 Million

Feedburner was acquired by Google for around $100 million. The deal is all cash and mostly upfront, according to sources, although the founders will be locked in for a couple of years.

Answers.com has purchased Dictionary.com for reportedly $100 Million

Question and answer reference site Answers.com has acquired Dictionary.com’s parent company, Lexico Publishing, for $100 million in cash. Lexico can really serve all your lexical needs because it also owns Thesaurus.com and Reference.com.

Yahoo Acquires Rivals for $100 Million

Yahoo has acquired college sports site Rivals.com, reported the Associated Press in a story earlier this year. The price is not being disclosed, although the rumor is that the deal was closed for around $100 million. Rumors of talks first surfaced in April 2007.

UGO Acquired By Hearst for reportedly $100 Million

Hearst has acquired New-York based UGO. Forbes reported the price should be around $100 million. UGO is a popular new media site that was founded in 1997 and, according to Forbes, is generating around $30 million/year in revenue. UGO media is yet another web 1.0 veteran and survivor.

Fotolog Acquired by Hi Media, French Ad Network for $90 Million
 
New York-based Fotolog been acquired by Hi Media, a Paris-based interactive media company for roughly $90 million – a combination of cash and stock, according to well-placed sources. 

Online Backup Startup Mozy Acquired By EMC For $76 Million

Online storage startup Mozy, headquartered in Utah, has been acquired by EMC Corporation, a public storage company with a nearly $40 billion market cap. EMC paid $76 million for the company, according to two sources close to the deal.

eBay Acquiring StumbleUpon for $75 Million

The startup StumbleUpon has been rumored to be in acquisition discussions since at least last November (2006). The small company had reportedly talks with Google, AOL and eBay as potential suitors. At the end of the day the start-up got acquired by eBay. The price was $75 million, which is symbolic with the fact the site had only 1.5m unique visitors per month at the time the deal took place. The company was rumored to be cash-positive.

General Atlantic Has Acquired Domain Name Pioneer Network Solutions

General Atlantic has acquired Network Solutions from Najafi Companies. Network Solutions was founded decades ago in 1973 and had a monopoly on domain name registration for years which led Verisign to pay billions to buy it. Najafi Companies purchased NS from VeriSign in November 2003 for just $100M. No financial terms were disclosed for the deal and no price tag is publicly available, although we believe it is way over $100M, but NS made our list due to its mythical role for the Internet’s development. That deal is symbolic for the Internet. 

MSNBC made its first acquisition in its 11-year history, acquired Newsvine

In a recent deal the citizen journalism startup Newsvine has been acquired by MSNBC, the Microsoft/NBC joint venture, for an undisclosed sum. Newsvine will continue operating independently, just as it has been since launching in March of 2006. The acquired company also indicated there would be little change in the features of the site.  We think the price tag for the Newsvine is anywhere in the $50/$75M range, but this is not confirmed. [more]

Google to buy Adscape for $23 Million

After some rumors of a deal earlier this year, Google has expanded its advertising reach by moving into video game advertising with their $23 million acquisition of Adscape.

Disney buys Chinese mobile content provider Enorbus for around $20 Million

Disney has bought Chinese mobile gaming company Enorbus , for around $20 million, MocoNews.net has learned. Financial backers in the company included Carlyle and Qualcomm Ventures.

BBC Worldwide Acquires Lonely Planet

BBC Worldwide, the international arm of BBC, has acquired Lonely Planet, the Australia-based travel information group. The amount of the deal was not disclosed, but Lonely Planet founders Tony and Maureen Wheeler get to keep a 25% share in the company. We truly believe this deal is in the $100M range, but since no confirmation was found on Web and therefore we cannot put a price tag for the sake of the list. Even though a global brand their site is getting just 4M unique visitors per month.

AOL Acquires ADTECH AG

AOL has acquired a controlling interest in ADTECH AG, a leading international online ad-serving company based in Frankfurt, Germany. The acquisition provides AOL with an advanced ad-serving platform that includes an array of ad management and delivery applications enabling website publishers to manage traffic and report on their online advertising campaigns. No details about the acquisition price were found on Web but we would suspect a large-scale deal and rank it very high. 

Amazon Acquires dpreview.com

Amazon have announced the acquisition of the digital camera information and review site dpreview.com. UK based dpreview.com was founded in 1998 by Phil Askey as a site that publishes “unbiased reviews and original content regarding the latest in digital cameras. Dpreview.com has in excess of 7 million unique viewers monthly. The value of the deal was not disclosed but we believe the purchase price should be in the $100M range (not confirmed).

HP Acquired Tabblo

HP announced the acquisition of Cambridge, Massachusetts based Photo printing site Tabblo this morning. The price was not disclosed.

eBay Gets Stake in Turkish Auction Market

eBay announced yesterday that it has acquired a minority stake in Turkish-based GittiGidiyor.com, an online marketplace structured in a similar manner to eBay. GittiGidiyor reportedly has more than 400,000 listings and 17 million users, which is a considerable percentage of the Turkish population. With the stake in GittiGidiyor, eBay now has the opportunity to enter the Turkish market via a system that’s already similar to theirs in functionality and purpose. Istanbul-based GittiGidiyor.com was founded in 2000. GittiGidiyor is Turkish for Going, Going, Gone. Terms of the deals were not found publicly available. Looking at the size of the Turkish site and the buying habits and history of eBay, the price should be considerably high, at least for the region.

Microsoft Acquiring ScreenTonic for Mobile Ad Platform

Microsoft is acquiring ScreenTonic, a local-based ads delivery platform for mobile devices, for an undisclosed amount. Paris-based ScreenTonic was founded in 2001, and has created the Stamp platform to deliver text or banner links on portals, text message ads and mobile web page ads, that vary depending on the recipients’ geographical location in a so called geo-targeting approach. 

~~~

Oddly WalMart jumps into the search engine marketing business, joins Kenshoo & Fathomonline

In a recent announcement the company seems to be entering the SEM (search engine marketing) business and are offering services to users willing to advertise on Google AdWords through AdSense.

An interesting questions popped up into my mind, does that involve any strategic agreement with Google for reselling their AdWords packages across the country in the brick and mortar stores of Sam’s Club. Does Google have initiated that strategy or it is an idea of Sam’s Club management to offer more services to their more than 47 million members nationwide. Is AdWords becoming a product that you can find in your local stores, groceries and the mall next to you? 

Does that move affect the most recent Sequoia funding for the SEM Firm Kenshoo? Or it legitimates the market and makes the SEM services wider known and popular. Here one can question the Internet experience of an old brick and mortar business like Sam’s Club but no one should underestimate the huge distribution channel Sam’s Club represents for … Google. Nonetheless, retailing SEM services is something new on the market and under no doubt the Sam’s Club’s target users are quite different from the target clients Kenshoo and Fathom Online are running after, which leaves space for all companies involved. 

The best guess is that with AdSense program, WalMart wants to help newbie wares sellers on the internet with their online advertising needs. Your Sam’s branded advertisement can be yours for as low as $100 a month. On the other hand $100 for SEM services on Google is an amount not enough to build and run a decent marketing campaign.

More About Sam’s Club

Sam’s Club is a membership-only warehouse club owned and operated by Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Becoming a Member at Sam’s Club can either be done online or at your nearest Sam’s Club location.

There are three types of Memberships to choose from:

  • Advantage Membership, which offers two Membership cards for you and a household member.
  • Business Membership, which is available at a slightly lower cost and provides a company Membership card plus two personal Membership cards.
  • PLUS Membership (either Advantage PLUS or Business PLUS), which provides extra benefits above and beyond either of the other Membership types.

You can also shop online at any time for home delivery or Click ‘n’ Pull(r).
 
Sam’s Club Memberships provide the opportunity to save on a complete line of products such as quality jewelry, designer goods, sunglasses, crystal and collectibles, high end electronics, floral, apparel, organic foods and choice meats.

In addition to affordable luxuries and exciting treasure hunt items, Members also enjoy services including — healthcare, business, financial and personal.  Examples include health insurance, web site development and maintenance, cost effective merchant credit card processing services and auto, boat & RV and travel programs.

A typical Sam’s Club stands between 110,000 and 130,000 square feet. Most locations feature Pharmacy, Tire and Battery, Photo, Bakery, Optical, Café and Floral departments. The Sam’s Club division of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. had total sales revenue of US$37.1 billion for fiscal year ending 31 January 2005. Sam’s primary competitor is Costco Wholesale.

The first Sam’s Club opened in April 1983 in Midwest City, Oklahoma in the United States.

Sam’s Club is named after Sam Walton. To purchase items from Sam’s Club, one must purchase a membership. Many Sam’s Club customers are small businesses that wish to offer customers a limited selection of food without the expense of having it delivered.

In 1993, Wal-Mart acquired PACE Membership Warehouse and converted many (but not all) PACE locations into Sam’s Clubs.

Even though membership is required to purchase at Sam’s Club, a one time day pass may be obtained from many Wal-Mart newspaper ads. A 10% surcharge is added to the prices for non-members. No membership (with no surcharge) is required for Optical, Pharmacy, or Cafe (as available per club), or to purchase alcohol. However the surcharge can be applied to a membership (which is currently $35 for Business members, $40 for Advantage members, and $100 for the Plus membership). All memberships are 100% refundable at any time for any reason, even on the date that it is to be renewed.

Renewal of memberships can be done via online, through the mail, in-club at the Membership Services desk, any cash register, and also at the new ATM/Membership kiosks.

The latest flagship store opening as of September 13, 2007 was in Fayetteville, Arkansas. It is the second largest Sam’s Club store; its largest is located in Utica, Michigan, with over 145,000 sq. ft. of retail space.

Sam’s Club ranks second in sales volume among warehouse clubs behind Costco Wholesale, despite the fact that Sam’s has more retail locations.

After Costco’s announcement on its change of return policy for consumer electronics (now within 90 days) beginning on February 26, 2007, Sam’s Club finds itself now to be tied with Nordstrom for having best, most liberal return/refund policy in the retail business.

In 2006, Wal-Mart acquired The Central American Retail Holding Company (CARHO), which operates ClubCo stores, similar in concept to Sam’s Club, although with a smaller footprint.

In September 24, 2006, Sam’s Club received a new logo. The new logo has a nice font and features a green and blue diamond inside the big blue diamond, found above the word ‘Sam’s’.

Sam’s Club’s previous slogan was “We Are In Business For Small Business” until 2006, Sam’s Club now has no slogan after the redesign of the new logo. The decision to remove the slogan comes as Sam’s Club attempts to remove itself from serving just small businesses and open up to more individual customers. It is possible that the new slogan is “Enjoy the Possibilities” but it’s probably used for Christmas.

There has been much recent talk about a possible sale or spin-off of Sam’s Club from parent company Wal-Mart. If this were to happen, Sam’s Club would either be owned by another company, or be an independent standalone retailer. Two recent Motley Fool articles explore the implications for both divisions. At Wal-Mart’s 2007 annual shareholder’s meeting, management said that Sam’s Club is not for sale, although they didn’t say they are not considering a spin-off.

In related news Wal-Mart shut its movie download service on December 21st. The video service was launched this February with all the major film studios providing content. Taking that web failure into consideration it is no wonder Walmart is now trying to stick with a proven leader on the Internet — Google.

More

http://www.samsclub.com/
http://samsbiz.com/
http://samsbiz.com/page/1dmiu/Online_Advertising.html
http://pressroom.samsclub.com/content/?id=3&atg=524
http://blog.karlribas.com/2007/12/new-at-wal-mart-sem-services.htm
http://mashable.com/2007/12/27/walmart-introduces-search-engine-marketing/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam’s_Club
http://www.walmartstores.com/GlobalWMStoresWeb/navigate.do?catg=306
http://www.hoovers.com/costco-wholesale/–ID__17060–/free-co-factsheet.xhtml
http://www.fool.com/investing/value/2007/05/07/spinoff-in-bentonville-revisited.aspx
http://www.fool.com/investing/value/2007/04/17/a-spinoff-in-bentonville.aspx?vstest=search_042607_linkdefault
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/bus/stories/060207dnbuswalmart.36d6e74.html
https://web2innovations.com/money/2007/12/18/sequoia-funding-for-search-engine-marketing-sem-firm-kenshoo/
http://www.samsclub.com.mx/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/27/wal-mart-shuts-movie-download-service-offers-sem-services-instead/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/02/06/walmart-officially-enters-movie-download-war/

Google is taking on Wikipedia

Once known as one of the strongest and beneficial friendships on the Web between two hugely popular and recognized giants is today going to turn out into an Internet battle second to none.

It is no secret on Web that Google was in love with Wikipedia over the past years turning this small and free encyclopedia project into one of the most visited sites on Web today with over 220 million unique visitors per month. It is believed that at least 85% of the total monthly traffic to Wikipedia is sent to by Google. One solid argument in support of that thesis can be the fact every second article on Wikipedia is being ranked among the first, if not the first, results in Google’s SERPs resulting in unprecedented organic traffic and participation.

It is also well known fact that Google wished they had the chance to acquire Wikipedia and if it was possible it’s believed they could have done this even years ago. Due to the non-profit policy and structure Wikipedia is built upon it provided no legal pathway to such deal for Google to snatch the site in its early days.

Basically one can conclude that Google has always liked the idea and concept upon which Wikipedia is built up and since, due to obvious reasons, they were not able to buy the site they seem today are up to an idea dangerously similar to the Wikipedia and are obviously taking on the free encyclopedia.

News broke late yesterday that Google is in preparation to launch a new site called Knol to create a new user generated authoritative online knowledgebase of virtually everything.

Normally we would not pay attention on such type of news where a large-scale corporation is trying to copy/cat an already popular and established business model (concept) that did not turn into a large-scale company itself. This is happening all the time and is part of the modern capitalism except we found a couple of strategic facts that provoked us to express our opinion.

First of all the mythical authority and popularity of Wikipedia seems to be under attack and unlike any of the other attempts encountered before this time it is Google, a company that is possessing a higher degree of chance to make it happen, undermining Wikipedia despite its huge popularity and idealistic approach today.

A couple of weeks ago we have written an in-depth analysis how yet another mythical site Dmoz.org has fallen down and is on its half way to totally disintegrate itself and the only reason behind this trend we have found is the voluntary approach and principle the site relied ever since – almost 10 years of existence.

We think the same problem is endangering Wikipedia too and perhaps it is just matter of time we witness how the hugely popular free encyclopedia today will some day in the future start disintegrating the same way it happened to Dmoz.org due to the same reason – it hugely relies on and is heavily dependant upon the voluntary principle and the contribution of thousands of skilled and knowledgeable individuals. However we all know there is no free lunch, at least not in America. And once Wikipedia has its mythical image, today everyone wants to be associated with, lost and is no longer passing authority and respect on to its free knowledgeable contributors the free encyclopedia will then most likely start disintegrating and what’s today known to be an authoritative and high-quality knowledge data base will then become one of the biggest repository of low-quality and link rich articles of controversial and objectable information on the Web. Pretty much the same has already happened to Dmoz.org. The less the Wikipedia volunteers become interested to keep contributing their time and knowledge to the free site while fighting with an ever growing army of spammers and corporate PRs the more the low-quality and less authoritative information on the Wikipedia will grow to and that process appears unavoidable.

This is what Google seems to be up to and is looking forward to change. Google wants to compensate those knowledgeable contributors on a long term run that way avoid a potential crash in the future, which is unavoidable for every free-based service on the planet that had the luck to grow out of size. 

Having more than $10 billion in annual sales (most of it represents pure profit), and willingness to share that money with these knowledgeable people around the globe, as well as relying on more than 500 million unique visitors per month Google seems to be on the right track to achieve what Wikipedia will most likely fail at.

Otherwise Wikipedia is a greater idea than Google itself but anything the size and ambitious of Wikipedia today does require an enormous amount of resources to keep alive, under control and effectively working for the future. Wikipedia has been trying to raise money for a long time now with no viable success. On the other hand, Google has already these resources in place.

Google has already said that Knol results will be in Google’s index, presumably on the first page, and very possibly at the top: “Our job in Search Quality will be to rank the knols appropriately when they appear in Google search results.” Google wants Knol to be an authoritative page: “A knol on a particular topic is meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read” and that’s already a direct challenge to Wikipedia.

If Wikipedia is being replaced in the first top results on Google with pages from Knol respectively, Wikipedia traffic will definitely decrease, and possibly as a consequence so will broader participation on Wikipedia.

Will Knol be the answer of the Web of Knowledge everybody is looking for? We do not know but one is for sure today it is going to hurt Wikipedia and not the ordinary user of the aggregated knowledge base Wikipedia is. The entire army of both users and contributors will possibly move to Knol, for longer, or at least until Google finds ways to pay for the knowledge aggregation and its contributors.

Other companies that will eventually get hurt are as follows: Freebase, About.com, Wikia, Mahalo and Squidoo.

Below is a screenshot of the Knol’s reference page and how it would eventually look like:


More

[ http://www.google.com/help/knol_screenshot.html ]
[ http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2007/12/encouraging-people-to-contribute.html ]
[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/13/google-preparing-to-launch-game-changing-wikipedia-meets-squidoo-project/ ]
[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/14/google-knol-a-step-too-far/ ]
[ http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/knol_project_google_experiment.php ]
[ http://www.webware.com/8301-1_109-9834175-2.html?part=rss&tag=feed&subj=Webware ]
 [ http://searchengineland.com/071213-213400.php ]
[ http://www.news.com/Google-develops-Wikipedia-rival/2100-1038_3-6222872.html ]
[ http://www.micropersuasion.com/2007/12/wikipedia-and-w.html ]
 

Dmoz.org – a falling star

While researching over the popular business directories business.com and allbusiness.com, both recently acquired, I came across some very interesting details about Dmoz.org – the famous Open Directory Project (ODP).

Once mythical site millions of web sites were desperately relying on for Web authority, today Dmoz.org is declining in every aspect you can imagine of – from traffic, site usage, indexation level, PageRank(tm) to overall authority, trustworthiness and beyond. All traffic measurement companies are revealing similar and very unpleasant trend for the old web directory. Quantcast is reporting for slightly above 1.7 Million visitors per month. The situation at Compete is even worse – 1.5 Million where huge 33% decline is seen from the previous year on month-to-month comparison basis. Even the not-so-accurate Alexa is showing significant decline in the Dmoz.org’s popularity – once used to be close to Alexa 100, as far as I remember, today’s Alexa rank is in the 680 range. Just like to outline the negative trend the site’s yesterday rank (Dec 05, 2007) was 1143. If you take a look at the traffic’s graph from Alexa (shown below) for Dmoz.org you will see there is a constant decline in popularity over the past 6 months, at least. Just like this is not enough, even Google’s indexation level has dropped to only 211,000 pages, out of millions before, as we last checked it out. The Google PR has also dropped down from 9 to 8.

In matter of honesty we do believe the real traffic is bigger than what is shown on the sites above yet it appears the traffic today is times less than what Dmoz.org used to have in the past.

While the site is still claiming to have 4,830,584 sites, 75,151 editors and over 590,000 categories we are sort of agreeing only on the part of the number of sites and the categories. The active human editors in our belief are way below the number shown on the web site. For example, there were 7407 active editors during August 2006 (Open Directory Forum – General – Analyzing editor numbers – page 1, 13 August 2006).

I cannot help but ask why? What’s happening with Dmoz.org anyway? While there are potentially many reasons for the current situation behind Dmoz.org and we claim no accuracy here at all, I will try to summarize some of the issues below:

  1. The Open Directory Project’s main strengths, today, seem to be turning into its main shortcoming and its greatest weakness. Dmoz.org has always been run by volunteer human editors ensuring that listings remain high quality. However, this fact is fast becoming Dmoz.org‘s downfall most notably in the last 6 months.
  2. There have long been allegations that volunteer ODP editors give favorable treatment to their own websites while concomitantly thwarting the good faith efforts of their competition. Such allegations are fielded by ODP’s staff and meta editors, who have the authority to take disciplinary action against volunteer editors who are suspected of engaging in abusive editing practices.
  3. Dmoz.org.org has been accused a number of times by tens of thousands of small web sites and individuals in elitarism and corruption in how they were listing and delisting the web sites in the directory. 
  4. According to the masses pointing fingers at the ODP, some editors’ heads have become too big for their body. These rumors are also backed up from some Dmoz.org editors themselves. Allegedly, some editors have become too lazy to do their jobs properly. More serious allegations joined the fray. It became clear that editors have become petty and have started declining the applications for Dmoz.org listing for no valid reason. Other claims of corruption in the ranks of the listings became widespread. This began another round of rumors that said editors have turned dictatorial in their approval to protect their own interests; that is, if an editor perceives a site to be his competition, that web site isn’t going to get approved at all, and there’ll be no explanations given for the rejection.
  5. Other alleged abuses have occurred at the executive level, with company management leveraging the link value from ODP to accelerate new privately funded projects. Although site policies suggest that an individual site should be submitted to only one category, as of October 2007, Topix.com, a news aggregation site operated by ODP founder Rich Skrenta, has more than 10,000 listings*.
  6.  Early in the history of the ODP, its staff gave representatives of selected websites, such as Rolling Stone magazine, editing access at ODP in order to list many individual pages from those websites.
  7. ODP’s paid staff has imposed controversial policies from time to time, and volunteer editors who dissent in ways staff considers uncivil may find their editing privileges removed. One alleged example of this was chronicled at the XODP Yahoo! eGroup in May of 2000. The earliest known exposé was Life After the Open Directory Project, later appearing as a June 1, 2000, guest column written for Traffick.com, by David F. Prenatt, Jr. (former ODP editor “netesq”) after losing his ODP editing privileges. Another example was the volunteer editor known by the alias The Cunctator, who was banned from the ODP soon after submitting an article to Slashdot on October 24, 2000, which criticized changes in ODP’s copyright policies.
  8. We have been witnessing many corporate, brand and social battles and wars on Dmoz.org over the past years, similarly to what is today happening with Wikipedia.
  9. As we said above the number of active editors is getting lesser and lesser over the years while the backlog of web sites in the queue waiting to get listed is increasing. There were websites that had to wait years before they got listed. When Dmoz.org was first established listing could take a matter of a few weeks. Over time as Dmoz.org popularity grew so did listing times.
  10. It became known that some categories inside Dmoz.org did not even have any editors. In other categories editors became inactive and the backlog of submissions just continued to mount up.
  11. Many Dmoz.org editors are believed to have moved to Wikipedia through out the past 2 years.
  12. Dmoz.org began taking more flak when people started saying that the reason Dmoz.org is so lacking in editors – which leads to some categories not having editors at all for a great length of time – is the fact that the powers at Dmoz.org are reluctant to admit new editors to their ranks.
  13. Uninhibited discussion of ODP’s purported shortcomings has become more common on mainstream Webmaster discussion forums.
  14. On October 20, 2006, the ODP’s main server suffered a catastrophic system failure that prevented editors from working on the directory until December 18, 2006. During that period, an older structure of the directory was visible to the public.
  15. Many site submissions were found to be in conflicts with the financial interests of the category editors.
  16. Underlying some controversy surrounding ODP is its ownership and management. Many of the original GnuHoo volunteers felt that they had been deceived into joining a commercial enterprise. As ODP’s content became widely used by most major search engines and web directories, the issue of ODP’s ownership, management and governance became of greater importance to the public interests.
  17. Dmoz.org listings are also a powerful force in the world of expired domain traffic. Due to the popularity of the Open Directory and its resulting impact on search engine rankings, domains with lapsed registration that are listed on ODP have attracted domain hijacking, an issue that has been addressed (at least tried) by regularly removing expired domains from the directory.
  18. Competition. Dmoz.org clearly has missed the web 2.0 evolution and was left behind by better organized (semantic approach), bigger in size and more effective (contextual links) modern directories, an example of which is LinkedWords with its more than 38 Million English categories, sub-categories, phrases and words to get listed with. Basically LinkedWords is large-scale contextual platform which has similarity with Dmoz.org in its huge ontology directory structure but is entirely built up upon the spirit of web 2.0 with greater flexibility (adding pages, categories, sub-categories in real time), functionality (automated creation of contextual listings, yet there is zero spam) and technology (maximizes contextual linking among web sites, not just lists them). Having the web sites listed on its platform contributing, on daily basis, to the popularity of LW with in-text contextual links spreading around the Web is yet another advantage. This way sites like LinkedWords are not only helping more the web sites involved by connecting them together on a contextual basis but they are also helping the algorithmic robots find, classify and organize the information in context (following the in-context linked words) and not last the common users are also given with a chance to find the information in-context and on demand while reading around the web by clicking on the same in-text linked words.
  19. Google has begun to disassociate itself from the Open Directory Project. Nothing can be more symbolic than Google’s relegation of the directory from a prominent position in Google’s site to a position reserved for ordinary ‘worth checking but not really that important’ type of site, regardless of the high page ranks of most of the categories at Dmoz.org.
  20. Since the clamor of discontent has reached such a high degree and Dmoz.org’s staunchest ally – Google, has begun to keep its distance, Dmoz.org is like a decaying dinosaur that other animals are steering clear of it to avoid the vultures that are expected to feast on the beast when it dies. The death toll has been sounded for Dmoz.org.

While many of the points listed above may be arguable in one way or another – depending on points of view and interests – since they are gathered from the public Web during our research, they reveal the true picture behind Dmoz.org and it is easily to understand why the decline is so huge in the Dmoz.org’s village.

All of the above raises the reasonable question, how can Dmoz.org remain useful when people no longer trust its human editors?

Money makes the world go round they say. In 2007 it is also true that money makes the World Wide Web go round. In a world where online businesses can easily sell for a billion dollars the original lure of Dmoz.org for both webmasters and editors is waning. Today, Dmoz.org is still being used when web masters want their web sites listed. However, people no longer attribute much importance to it.

That pretty much sums up ours and a million other people’s sentiments about the current status and usefulness of this Open Directory Project. Sweeping changes and general reform, from political to technological, are required for the ODP to change from a Web 1.0 decaying dinosaur into a modern and effective directory with web 2.0 functionality.

For the people who do not know what Dmoz.org is, below we will include some basic information and historic facts about the ODP project. No, not everybody knows about Dmoz.org. In our basic estimate there are probably more than 400 million online users today that have no idea what the ODP project is.

The Open Directory Project is the largest, most comprehensive human-edited directory of the Web. It is constructed and maintained by a vast, global community of volunteer editors.

The Open Directory Project (ODP), also known as Dmoz.org (from directory.mozilla.org, its original domain name), is a multilingual open content directory of World Wide Web links owned by Netscape that is constructed and maintained by a community of volunteer editors.

ODP uses a hierarchical ontology scheme for organizing site listings. Listings on a similar topic are grouped into categories, which can then include smaller categories.

ODP was founded as Gnuhoo by Rich Skrenta and Bob Truel in 1998. At the time, Skrenta and Truel were working as engineers for Sun Microsystems. Chris Tolles, who worked at Sun Microsystems as the head of marketing for network security products, also signed on in 1998 as a co-founder of Gnuhoo along with co-founders Bryn Dole and Jeremy Wenokur. Skrenta was already well known for his role in developing TASS, an ancestor of tin, the popular threaded Usenet newsreader for Unix systems. Coincidentally, the original category structure of the Gnuhoo directory was based loosely on the structure of Usenet newsgroups then in existence.

The Gnuhoo directory went live on June 5, 1998. After a Slashdot article suggested that Gnuhoo had nothing in common with the spirit of free software, for which the GNU project was known, Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation objected to the usage of Gnu. So Gnuhoo was changed to NewHoo. Yahoo then objected to the usage of “Hoo” in the name, prompting them to switch the name again. ZURL was the likely choice. However, before the switch to ZURL, NewHoo was acquired by Netscape Communications Corporation in October of 1998 and became the Open Directory Project. Netscape released the ODP data under the Open Directory License. Netscape was acquired by AOL shortly thereafter, and ODP was one of the assets included in the acquisition. AOL later merged with Time-Warner.

By the time Netscape assumed stewardship, the Open Directory Project had about 100,000 URLs indexed with contributions from about 4500 editors. On October 5, 1999, the number of URLs indexed by ODP reached one million. According to an unofficial estimate, the number of URLs in the Open Directory surpassed the number of URLs in the Yahoo! Directory in April 2000 with about 1.6 million URLs. ODP achieved the milestones of indexing two million URLs on August 14, 2000, three million listings on November 18, 2001 and four million on December 3, 2003.

I find similarities between Dmoz.org and Wikipedia.org. So, is it possible the same to happen with Wikipedia at future?

Via

[ http://www.Dmoz.org ]
[ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Directory_Project ]
[ http://www.quantcast.com/Dmoz.org ]
[ http://siteanalytics.compete.com/Dmoz.org/?metric=uv ]
[ http://alexa.com/data/details/traffic_details/Dmoz.org ]
[ http://www.skrenta.com/2006/12/Dmoz.org_had_9_lives_used_up_yet.html ]
[ http://www.newswriter.us/ShowAdminArticle-17.htm ]
* [ http://search.Dmoz.org/cgi-bin/search?search=topix (accessed on 18th October 2007)]
[ http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/xodp/messages/1 (XODP Yahoo! Group Message Archive)]
[ http://www.traffick.com/story/06-2000-xodp.asp (David F. Prenatt, Jr., Life After the Open Directory Project, Traffick.com (June 1, 2000))]
[ http://slashdot.org/articles/00/10/24/1252232.shtml (CmdrTaco, Dmoz.org (aka AOL) Changing Guidelines In Sketchy Way, Slashdot (October 24, 2000)]

Is Google trying to become a Social Search Engine

Based on what we are seeing the answer is close to yes. Google is now experimenting with new social features aimed at improving the users’ search experience.

This experiment lets you influence your search experience by adding, moving, and removing search results. When you search for the same keywords again, you’ll continue to see those changes. If you later want to revert your changes, you can undo any modifications you’ve made. Note that Google claims this is an experimental feature and may be available for only a few weeks.

There seems to be features like “Like it”, “Don’t like it?” and “Know of a better web page”. Of course, to get full advantage of these extras as well as to have your recommendations associated with your searches later, upon your return, you have to be signed in.

There is nothing new here, many of the smaller social search engines are deploying and using some of the features Google is just now trying to test, but having more than 500 million unique visitors per month, the vast majority of which are heavily using Google’s search engine, is a huge advantage if one wants to implement social elements in finding the information on web easily. Even Marissa Mayer, Google’s leading executive in search, said in August that Google would be well positioned to compete in social search. Actually with that experiment in particular it appears your vote only applies to what Google search results you will see, so it is hard to call it “social” at this time around. This may prove valuable as a stand-alone service. Also, Daniel Russell of Google, some time ago, made it pretty clear that they use user behavior to affect search results. Effectively, that’s using implicit voting, rather than explicit voting.

We think, however, the only reason Google is trying to deal with these social features, relying on humans to determine the relevancy, is their inability to effectively fight the spam their SERPs are flooded with. 

Manipulating algorithmic based results, in one way or another is in our understanding not much harder than what you would eventually be able to do to manipulate or influence results in Google that rely and depend on social recommendations. Look at Digg for example.

We think employing humans to determine which results are best is basically an effective pathway to corruption, which is sort of worse than to have an algorithm to blame for the spam and low quality of the results. Again take a look at Digg, dmoz.org and mostly Wikipedia. Wikipedia, once a good idea, became a battle field for corporate, brand, political and social wars. Being said that, we think the problem of Google with the spam results lies down to the way how they reach to the information or more concrete the methods they use to crawl and index the vast Web. Oppositely, having people, instead of robots, gathering the quality and important information (from everyone’s point of view) from around the web is in our understanding much better and effective approach rather than having all the spam results loaded on the servers and then let the people sort them out.

That’s not the first time Google is trying new features with their search results. We remember searchmash.com. Searchmash.com is yet another of the Google’s toys in the search arena, which was quietly started out a year ago because Google did not want the public to know about this project and influence their beta testers (read: the common users) with the brand name Google. The project, however, quickly became poplar since many people discovered who the actual owner of the beta project is.

Google is under no doubt getting all the press attention they need, no matter what they do and sometimes even more than what they do actually need from. On the other hand things seem to be slowly changing today and influential media like New York Times, Newsweek, CNN and many others are in a quest for the next search engine, the next Google. This was simply impossible to happen during 2001, 2002 up to 2004, period characterized with a solid media comfort for Google’s search engine business.  

So, is Google the first one to experiment with social search approaches, features, methods and extras? No, definitely not as you are going to see for yourself from the companies and projects listed below.

As for crediting a Digg-like system with the idea of sorting content out based on community voting, they definitely weren’t the first. The earliest implementation of this we are aware of is Kuro5hin.org (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuro5hin), which, we think, was founded back in 1999.

Eurekster

One of the first and oldest companies coined social search engines on Web is Eureskter. 
Eurekster launched its community-powered social search platform “swicki”, as far as we know, in 2004, and explicit voting functionality in 2006. To date, over 100,000 swickis have been built, each serving a community of users passionate about a specific topic. Eurekster processes over 25,000,000 searches a month. The key to Eurekster’s success in improving relevancy here has been leveraging the explicit (and implicit) user behavior though at the group or community level, not individual or general. On the other hand Eurekster never made it to the mainstream users and somehow the company slowly faded away, lost the momentum.

Wikia Social Search

Wikia was founded by Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia’s founder) and Angela Beesley in 2004. The company is incorporated in Delaware. Gil Penchina became Wikia’s CEO in June 2006, at the same time the company moved its headquarters from St. Petersburg, Florida, to Menlo Park and later to San Mateo in California. Wikia has offices in San Mateo and New York in the US, and in Poznań in Poland. Remote staff is also located in Chile, England, Germany, Japan, Taiwan, and also in other locations in Poland and the US. Wikia has received two rounds of investment; in March 2006 from Bessemer Venture Partners and in December 2006 from Amazon.com.

According to the Wikia Search the future of Internet Search must be based on:

  1. Transparency – Openness in how the systems and algorithms operate, both in the form of open source licenses and open content + APIs.
  2. Community – Everyone is able to contribute in some way (as individuals or entire organizations), strong social and community focus.
  3. Quality – Significantly improve the relevancy and accuracy of search results and the searching experience.
  4. Privacy – Must be protected, do not store or transmit any identifying data.

Other active areas of focus include:

  1. Social Lab – sources for URL social reputation, experiments in wiki-style social ranking.
  2. Distributed Lab – projects focused on distributed computing, crawling, and indexing. Grub!
  3. Semantic Lab – Natural Language Processing, Text Categorization.
  4. Standards Lab – formats and protocols to build interoperable search technologies.

Based on who Jimmy Wales is and the success he achieved with Wikipedia therefore the resources he might have access to, Wikia Search stands at good chances to survive against any serious competition by Google.

NosyJoe.com

NosyJoe is yet another great example of social search engine that employs intelligent tagging technologies and runs on a semantic platform.

NosyJoe is a social search engine that relies on you to sniff for and submit the web’s interesting content and offers basically meaningful search results in the form of readable complete sentences and smart tags. NosyJoe is built upon the fundamental belief people are better than robots in finding the interesting, important and quality content around Web. Rather than crawling the entire Web building a massive index of information, which aside being an enormous technological task, requires huge amount of resources and is time consuming process would also load lots of unnecessary information people don’t want, NosyJoe is focused just on those parts of the Web people think are important and find interesting enough to submit and share with others.

NosyJoe is a hybrid of a social search engine that relies on you to sniff for and submit the web’s interesting content, an intelligent content tagging engine on the back end and a basic semantic platform on its web visible part. NosyJoe then applies a semantic based textual analysis and intelligently extracts the meaningful structures like sentences, phrases, words and names from the content in order to make it just one idea more meaningfully searchable. This helps us present the search results in basically meaningful formats like readable complete sentences and smart phrasal, word and name tags.

The information is then clustered and published across the NosyJoe’s platform into contextual channels, time and source categories and semantic phrasal, name and word tags are also applied to meaningfully connect them together, which makes even the smallest content component web visible, indexable and findable. At the end a set of algorithms and user patterns are applied to further rank, organize and share the information.

From our quick tests on the site the search results returned were presented in form of meaningful sentences and semantic phrasal tags (as an option), which turns their search results into — something we have never seen on web so far — neat content components, readable and easily understandable sentences, unlike what we are all used to, some excerpts from the content where the keyword is found in. When compared to other search engines’ results NosyJoe.com’s SERPs appear truly meaningful.

As of today, and just 6 or 7 months since they went online, NosyJoe is already having more than 500,000 semantic tags created that connect tens of thousands of meaningful sentences across their platform.

We have no information as to who stays behind NosyJoe but the project seems very serious and promising in many aspects from how they gather the information to how they present the results to the way they offset low quality results. From all newcomers social search engines NosyJoe stands at best changes to make it. As far as we know NosyJoe is also based in the Silicon Valley. 

Sproose

Sproose says it is developing search technology that lets users obtain personalized results, which can be shared among a social network, using the Nutch open-source search engine, and building applications on top. Their search appears to using third party search feeds and ranks the results based on the users’ votes.

Sproose is said it has raised nearly $1 million in seed funding. It is based in Danville, a town on the east side of the SF Bay Area. Sproose said Roger Smith, founder, former president and chief executive at Silicon Valley Bank, was one of the angel investors, and is joining Sproose’s board.

Other start-up search engines of great variety are listed below:

  • Hakia – Relies on natural language processing. These guys are also experimenting with social elements with the feature so called “meet others who asked the same query“.
  • Quintura – A visual engine based today in Virginia, US. The company is founded by Russians and has early been headquartered in Moscow. 
  • Mahalo – search engine that looks more like a directory with quality content handpicked by editors. Jason Calacanis is the founder of the company.
  • ChaCha – Real humans try to help you in your quest for information, via chat. The company is based in Indiana and has been criticized a lot by the Silicon Valley’s IT community. Despite these critics they have recently raised $10m in Series A round of funding. 
  • Powerset – Still in closed beta and also relying on understanding the natural language. See our Powerset review.  
  • Clusty – founded in 2000 by three Carnegie Mellon University scientists.
  • Lexxe – Sydney based engine featuring natural language processing technologies.
  • Accoona – The company has recently filed for an IPO in US planning to raise $80M from the public.
  • Squidoo – It has been started in October 2005 by Seth Godin and looks more like a wiki site, ala Wikia or Wikipedia where anyone creates articles on different topics.
  • Spock – Focuses on people information, people search engine.

One thing is for sure today; Google is now bringing solid credentials to and is somehow legitimating the social search approach, which by the way is helping those so many smaller so-called social search engines. 

Perhaps it is about time for consolidation in the social search sector. Some of the smaller but more promising social search engines can now become one in order to be able to compete with and prevent Google’s dominance within the social search sector too, just like what they did with the algorithmic search engines. Is Google also interested in? Anyone heard of recent interest in or already closed acquisition deals for start-up social search engines?

On the contrary, more and more IT experts, evangelists and web professionals agree on the fact that taking Google down is a challenge that will most likely be accomplished by a concept that is anything else but not a search engine in our traditional understanding. Such concepts, including but not limited to, are Wikipedia, Del.icio.us and LinkedWords. In other words finding information on web doesn’t necessarily mean to search for it.

Via:
[ http://www.google.com/experimental/a840e102.html ]
[ http://www.blueverse.com/2007/12/01/google-the-social-…]
[ http://www.adesblog.com/2007/11/30/google-experimenting-social… ]
[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/11/28/straight-out-of-left-field-google-experimenting-with-digg-style-voting-on-search-results ]
[ http://www.blogforward.com/money/2007/11/29/google… ]
[ http://nextnetnews.blogspot.com/2007/09/is-nosyjoecom-… ]
[ http://www.newsweek.com/id/62254/page/1 ]
[ http://altsearchengines.com/2007/10/05/the-top-10-stealth-… ]
[ http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/24/business/yourmoney/…  ]
[ http://dondodge.typepad.com/the_next_big_thing/2007/05… ]
[ http://search.wikia.com/wiki/Search_Wikia ]
[ http://nosyjoe.com/about.com ]
[ http://www.siliconbeat.com/entries/2005/11/08/sproose_up_your… ]
[ http://nextnetnews.blogspot.com/2007/10/quest-for-3rd-generation… ]
[ http://www.sproose.com ]

Google acquires wiki project JotSpot, one year later

CNN reported (story has expired) in 2006 on a tiny deal where Google has acquired a small wiki based start-up company called JotSpot. Google says they are expanding their efforts at providing software that helps users create and post their own materials on the Internet. JotSpot is (was) a California startup that develops online collaboration tools known as wikis. Wikipedia is the most prominent example of what wiki software does.

JotSpot was a software start-up that offered enterprise social software – a structured wiki. The product was targeted mainly to small- and medium-sized businesses. The company was founded by Joe Kraus and Graham Spencer, co-founders of Excite. JotSpot is now owned by Google. 

The compamy closed Series A round of funding in the $5M range. Participants were Redpoint Ventures, Mayfield Funds, some private investors and the founders Joe Kraus and Graham Spencer.  

The announcement came Tuesday Nov 03, 2006 through separate postings at Google’s and JotSpot Inc.’s Web journals. Pricing details were not disclosed.

JotSpot Chief Executive Joe Kraus said JotSpot would be able to tap into the Internet search leader’s large user base and robust data centers capable of handling any growth. “Our vision has always been to take wikis out of the land of the nerds and bring it to the largest possible audience,” Kraus said in an interview.

Earlier in the year, Google said it bought Upstartle, the maker of the online word-processing program Writely. Google has since packaged Writely with an online spreadsheet it developed in-house.

The free tools could help groups simultaneously work on documents over the Web and provide alternatives to Microsoft Corp.’s dominant business-software applications, which largely run on computer desktops rather than the Internet.

Kraus said Google’s acquisition of JotSpot “validates the notion that people want to do more online than just read. The Web is moving from a monologue to a dialogue.”

JotSpot since then has stopped billing for paid accounts. By that time JotSpot was said to have more than 30,000 paid accounts.

JotSpot had 27 employees later moved about six miles from Palo Alto, California, to Google’s Mountain View headquarters.

An year later JotSpot seems to have been integrated within what’s called now Google Docs which is free web-based word processor and spreadsheet, which allow you share and collaborate online. In an another news Google announced that Jotspot would be integrated into Google Apps and part of the suite of online office applications Google is developing or acquiring.

Please note this posting is reporting a deal for JotSpot that took place in 2006. Web 2.0 Money is a new initiative of Web 2.0 Innovations to discover, report and analyze the money behind the Technology and Internet Industries. We start from some of the earliest funding/acquisition deals we know about.

[ via CNN ]

[ via Zee News ]

[ via The Geek Librarian ]

[ via Demo ]