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  Move Over Click Fraud Lawsuits

Now that click fraud suits have mostly come and gone, the next big wave of riches that class action lawyers will extract from the search engines is for false advertising.

Scenario / Pop-quiz:

So the $64M question: Who gets sued?

Answer: Everyone!

That's my early prediction for 2007 - a ton of false advertising suits against Google, the CPA / affiliate networks, the merchants, the affiliates and anyone who ever ran such an ad on their page.

Get in early while the gettin' is good...

  After Kiko, What will Google Kill Next?

People are starting to stipulate what I said about a year ago: Google is the new Microsoft for startups.

I.e. Google must be top-of-mind competitively for any web startup.

The new awareness derives mainly from the plight of Kiko, a web 2.0 calendar app / company that went under after Google released Google Calendar.

To paraphrase some famous words of Larry Ellison, Google can cut off the oxygen of many startups. Of course, to be fair, Google created a lot of that O2 in the first place.

Here are some areas / companies Google could threaten next:

Of course the startups are not defenseless. Their primary advantage is that organizationally, Google is a gangly overgrown teenager, with all of the focus and attention span that implies. And Google ain't getting any smaller or faster.

  The Contract is What Matters in Ad Deals

Battelle posts the news on the Microsoft / Facebook advertising deal.

Reading the blogs, people tend to make comments like: "Good deal for Microsoft". However, on this deal and others like it (i.e. Google / MySpace and Yahoo / Ebay ), it takes TERMS to tango.

I mean what really matters is the contract, the revenue split, etc. These contracts can run to hundreds of pages, and it's certain that both parties usually think they are getting the better deal.

In the end, there's no way an outsider can make a good prediction on how valuable these deals will be and who got the better of it for 3 simple reasons:

  1. You can't predict the future.
  2. You didn't read the contract.
  3. Even the insiders don't really know (see 1 & 2).
  Regulating Privacy

In response to the search data that AOL research released, 2 AOL researchers have been fired, and the CTO has resigned (via Philipp).

The bottom part of the ZDnet article has a bunch of quotes from the EFF and EPIC leadership clamoring for some search engine to not keep logs, and general complaints about the ability of web sites to datamine their transaction history.

I don't think it's likely or realistic for a search engine not to keep logs, though maybe AOL could give up on improving user experience, fire ALL of their researchers and outsource all the privacy problems to Google.

Even if Google wanted to, Sarbox regulations require much more mundane business material to be kept for long periods of time, and certainly could apply to web server logs in Google's case. Beyond that, how would Google continue to improve their service, or continue to reduce click fraud if they didn't keep logs?

Here's the simple answer if you're that worried about privacy online: Don't use the Internet. Also, don't use credit cards, don't go to the ATM machine, don't have a driver's license, don't own a home, etc.

I'll be far more worried if the government steps in and decides to tell Google what they can or cannot do with the data they collect. If it happens, it will be more evidence that the tech industry under-spends on lobbying.

  Handling Editorial Rejection in MSN adCenter

Microsoft adCenter has editorial policies that prevent a lot of ads from being shown.

For example, the keyword "[adult video]" can't be bought. At least not by me.

Anyways, it's important to check the reason for rejection - especially when the rejection applies to your AD / KEYWORD combination. If you understand what's not allowed, it makes it easier to write ads the next time.

Like many of the adCenter screens, the Rejection Reason interface is poor - because it only lists 5 rejections at a time (imagine clicking through 600 rejections that way). However, my helpful adCenter QuickLaunch rep, emailed me the following instructions for getting a CSV report listing all rejections at once:

You can get a bulk download of your rejection report by clicking on the Reports tab once you are in adCenter. Once you are in there, please select rejection summary in Report Group, choose a report view and date range. You can then customize the report by clicking on the "Customize this report" link then run report.

For reference, here are some of the reasons Ad/Keyword combinations can be rejected:

Despite some glitches, and it's inability to handle mostly-image landing pages well, I actually like this system - giving a reason is something MSN adCenter does better than AdWords (though in general, AdWords is way better to use for big accounts).

  Shiny Buttons

I've got shiny buttons on my blog now. (Check 'em out on the right.)

Thanks to

So go on and subscribe in your favorite reader, if you haven't already.

  What's the best OS?

FreeBSD is the best OS in the world. Here are some reasons why:


This post was inspired by the fact that my 2.8Ghz Intel FreeBSD 6.0 Server reboots in 41 seconds!

That includes time to stop everything until I can SSH back into it. Its kernel is all of 3.5MB, btw.

Take a sucka that Vista!

While I'm at it: here's a uptime from another FreeBSD box I have:

> uptime
11:15PM  up 124 days,  3:27, 2 users, load averages: 0.79, 0.71, 0.66

Did I mention that I love FreeBSD?

  ComScore Traffic Numbers - Wrong Again

TechCrunch (which I maligned a bit yesterday) points out yet another instance where ComScore's data is probably inaccurate. This case revolves around and is disputed by Yahoo.

Hitwise has a better methodology than ComScore and Hitwise jibes better with what Yahoo is saying.

At this point, I'm of the opinion that comScore numbers are a bit below Alexa's in terms of accuracy (i.e. a lack thereof).

Markus Frind jumps in at TechCrunch on the comments - and he strongly concurs: "Comscore is completely worthless, they barely have an install base of 2x alexa."

I think Markus is right up there with Cringley and Scott Adams in the category of most informative & entertaining bloggers.

  Is AOL's Search Dataset a Privacy Violation?

AOL releases a data set of search queries on their Labs site. The immediate reaction in the blogosphere was an massive outcry of "Privacy violation!". Here's famed blogger Mike Arrington on TechCrunch:

AOL has released very private data about its users without their permission. While the AOL username has been changed to a random ID number, the abilitiy to analyze all searches by a single user will often lead people to easily determine who the user is, and what they are up to. The data includes personal names, addresses, social security numbers and everything else someone might type into a search box.

I think this is a massive over-reaction. Looking at the dataset it's not clear at all that it can be tied to an individual's IP address, much less their name, address, etc.

I'm surprised at the knee-jerk reaction. I think AOL's research team is doing something useful - share data so search can be studied and improved.

Here's a sample of the data

220 telephone directory ridgeville south carolina 2006-04-16 12:29:29  
220 florida atlantic university 2006-04-16 15:57:58  
220 florida international university 2006-04-20 06:18:32 5
220 house plans 2006-04-21 21:37:37  
220 house plans 2006-04-22 04:48:43  
220 house plans 2006-04-22 04:50:16  
220 house plans 2006-04-22 08:58:27  
220 windstorm insurance 2006-04-22 15:33:35 3
220 windstorm insurance 2006-04-22 15:33:35 9 

I don't see how Arrington's claims make any sense. Arrington's notion that the data will be easily analyzed and can "often lead people to easily determine who the user is" is strange. Certainly it's not easy to tie a query sequence to an individual, nor is it anything that any web site owner couldn't try to do with their web logs.

Could the data have a social security number in it? Of course it could, but what does that mean? Is that a violation of privacy for someone? How many people type their own social security numbers into web search engines... I'll try look for them in the dataset and report back.

In the end, I think the people decrying this type of data have somehow over-defined privacy to mean something rather imaginative and non-sensical.

  AOL is eBay's Ghost of X-mas Future
AOL was the original Web 0.0 company. It's now struggling and belatedly changing to a free model:
AOL will offer its distinctive services such as email and web security free to anyone with broadband, relying on the revenues generated by online advertising. ...

It's probably too late for AOL. They've lost 9 million customers in four years, as people:

Ed Morrissey sums up:

At one time, Internet users without AOL had little choice in general-interest content, or at least a limited way to access it. With AOL, one could find reference materials, news services, magazines, chat rooms, e-mail, gaming, and a wide variety of other content in one spot. The Internet, without that powerful interface, was uncharted territory for most casual users. That changed with the advent of Yahoo!, Google, and other navigational sites. Instead of relying on AOL's slow-loading interface, netsurfers could find their content quickly and reliably, using just a web browser.

Substitute eBay for AOL, and change the services from general web stuff to shopping search, and you can see the Ghost of Christmas future for eBay.

What's happened to AOL doesn't bode well for eBay. eBay is a true Web 1.0 company, with a walled garden around its key services:

Now that at least two of those key eBay features are available in a free distributed fashion - one via shopping comparison and independent seller sites, the other via Google Checkout and other payment systems, eBay has only its reputation management as a key differentiating feature.

Just as AOL is losing users to free alternatives, eBay will lose sellers.

In other words, Search has hollowed out eBay's market-making power, and Google Checkout is eliminating it's payment advantage. And it's only a matter of time before a distributed trust system (i.e. "Can I trust this seller? What happens if I want to return the product") eliminates eBay's remaining advantage.

The web 2.0 model is that any site can sell anything and the buyer can find it more easily than they can on eBay. Sellers have more control and flexibility and costs will be lower. Since eBay isn't really an innovation oriented company, I don't know how they can escape the fate of AOL.

  I want a good camera phone!
Cell phone pictures suck.

Blurry People at the CBOT

What I want to know is when can I buy a mobile phone camera that takes good pictures.

Anyone out there happy with the pix from their cell phone? If so, let me know. Otherwise, I'm might just have to try the Nokia N73.

And I want all my friends and acquaintances to get a good camera phone too.


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Recent Posts

Move Over Click Fraud Lawsuits
After Kiko, What will Google Kill Next?
The Contract is What Matters in Ad Deals
Regulating Privacy
Handling Editorial Rejection in MSN adCenter
Shiny Buttons
What's the best OS?
ComScore Traffic Numbers - Wrong Again
Is AOL's Search Dataset a Privacy Violation?
AOL is eBay's Ghost of X-mas Future
I want a good camera phone!


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Move Over Click Fraud Lawsuits
After Kiko, What will Google Kill Next?
The Contract is What Matters in Ad Deals
Regulating Privacy
Handling Editorial Rejection in MSN adCenter
Shiny Buttons
What's the best OS?
ComScore Traffic Numbers - Wrong Again
Is AOL's Search Dataset a Privacy Violation?
AOL is eBay's Ghost of X-mas Future
I want a good camera phone!