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  Microsoft Will NEVER Catch Google in Search
Erik Selberg works at Microsoft on the search team.

What's  you may ask. is MSN search rebranded.

Erik responded to a Danny Sullivan chart showing MSFT's latest search share sinking into the ground, and he posted some comments at Greg Linden's blog.

Erik posits the following questions:

the three questions that everyone asks me about search when they find out I’m from Microsoft are:
  1. Will Microsoft beat Google?
  2. How will Microsoft beat Google?
  3. When will Microsoft beat Google?

Let me answer them: Maybe. By building products customers prefer over Google. Not soon.

Maybe?!? I'd answer these questions with a "NEVER." It is NEVER going to happen that somehow MSFT search will go from 12% share and declining to beating Google's 60% share.

Microsoft has already lost. It's way too late, and Erik saying that it wasn't realistic for them to catch Google in 2 or 3 years (contra the typical meaningless Ballmer boosterism - "In the next six months, we'll catch Google in terms of relevancy" - Jun '06) is proof.

Erik's right in his hedge about "by building products customers prefer over Google", but Microsoft just doesn't do that.

He's also right that the Ballmer fantasy time frames weren't realistic, because they are Microsoft, and despite having a $5B/yr research budget and spending hundreds of millions of dollars on search, they cannot INVENT the thing that will displace the product created by the much more focused, nimble and innovative team at Google.

Obviously, the game is past the feature complete problem (and search isn't really close to Google on relevance, or resistance to spam). The search game is now distribution.

Google has simply outperformed Yahoo and Microsoft by a mile in doing distribution deals this year. They've done the following:

And they still have Mozilla / Firefox in their back pocket, and their toolbar distribution is running slightly ahead of Yahoo! (Meanwhile, Google corrupted the blogosphere with the immensely successful AdSense system, while Yahoo and MSN barely made a peep.)

So in sum:

This game is over, MSFT has lost on product, and it's lost on distribution. Google is not AltaVista, they are not Yahoo circa 1999.

Microsoft has to find the next game. Of course, being Microsoft, they will never do that either.

PS. This post is in honor of today being the first day of the official Vista launch.

  Finding Toys that aren't sold out

What are the hottest toys this season? Every year, toy trade magazines make lists in October. This year, the list has stuff like:

What do all of these toys have in common? You cannot buy them. At least not for their list prices. eBay has plenty with 100%+ markup, though.

It's hype, mainly. It keeps people excited about giving the coolest thing.

Anyways, here are two pages that shows many of the "hot toys" that are still available, from Amazon: Top toys for boys. Top toys for Girls.

BTW, the big rumor for the next shipment of Wii's to re-stock Target, Best Buy, Walmart and Circuit City is December 3rd. That's this Sunday. So be awake out there if you want to pick one up.

  Advertiser Frustration with Google Quality Score
Jeremy Chatfield of Merjis, has a long, excellent post on Google's Quality Score - how it's used to maximize revenue for Google.

Jeremy knows A LOT about Google AdWords, he does a lot of advertising for clients, and he's extremely knowledgeable about the API. He has posted extensively on dealing with Google's editorial reviews and dealing with click fraud.

But his post today is palpably dripping with frustration with Google's opacity. Their arrogance, basically, is driving him nuts.

I think we can expect more of this from the people that follow Google carefully and those who depend on Google for their livelihoods, but unlike Jeremy, I doubt it will have any affect on Google's behaviour.

As Jeremy says, they are a "Googlopoly". And their power is not waning, despite the frustration that some people are voicing. There's too much growing demand for their inventory, and MSN and Yahoo just aren't equivalent substitutes yet.

Don't forget: Google is out to dominate advertising.

They want to control the most inventory, and be the dominant market for reaching internet users. They also want to be the Ad Agency of choice for all large ad spenders. They don't care about the Merjis' of the world, because they WON'T BE DISINTERMEDIATED. They will do the the disintermediation, thank you!

That instinct to dominate is driving a lot more of their strategic behaviour these days. If you listen carefully you can hear it in their comments in Google's quarterly results tele-conference.

  The Key to Monetization
Want to know the key to monetization of your web site?

Zoltan, a commenter at Markus Frind's blog, unwittingly reveals it:

# Zoltan Says:
November 22nd, 2006 at 3:59 pm

I am always impressed how good you are when talking about competition.
Are you monitorize them somehow?
I am just wondering how could we easily monitorize the competition in our own industry.

It's as if Borat himself was commenting. The key is MONITOR-IZATION!

I'm serious. If you want to monetize, you've got to monitorize.

You need a system to monitor your web performance, your key monetization and customer metrics and you need a system to understand the performance of your competitors. That's monitorization!

I'm now gonna go work on my monitorize system for the rest of the month.

  Is the Nintendo Wii as Good as You Hoped?
So I finally got the Nintendo Wii - after failing at pre-ordering, and not feeling like camping out overnight, it was a miracle that I found one.

Was it worth it? In a word: Yes!

Here's one of those cutesy blog interviews where I ask myself questions.

Questions about the Nintendo Wii

How did you get the Wii?

I drove around, starting at 7am, trying 3 Targets, 3 Best Buys, 1 Wal-mart, 1 Toys R Us, a Sears and a CompUSA until I finally found a reasonable sized line (about 60 people) at the mall. I waited with my kids for about 3 hours, and finally got one.

Wow. What did you pay?

I bought the Wii, 3 extra Wii-remotes, 2 games (Zelda and Madden) and the last Nunchuk controller in the store for about $540.

Who were the other people you saw in the lines?

Mostly adults without kids, ages 20-30. Plenty of hardcore gamers. Very few people brought their kids with them, but mine were fine. They played soccer using a water bottle for a ball in the mall while we waited...

The lines were pretty fun, with shared spirit, random rumors / war stories about looking for the Wii. People perked up a lot when the store manager came out and said we were "safe" to get a Wii.

OK. What about the Wii?

It's small, easy to set up - about 10 mins total - and fun. It's quiet. Graphics look great to me, but the controllers are the magic part. In case you don't know, they are wireless, you hold them in your hands, and you have to wave them around in various ways to control the action.

Why do you like it so much?

A few reasons:

So what was your favorite game?

Tennis and Bowling are great - easy to play. Golf kinda sucks - cause you can't really control distance that well. Boxing had the boys going absolutely crazy. I had to hold the little one back because he'd get to close to the TV and flail about, nearly breaking something.

We played a little Zelda, and it looks fabulous. It's a lot calmer than the sports games. However we didn't really get past the "learn the basic controls" part yet.

And I tried Madden, which I've always found to be, well, maddening since the controls are too difficult to master. It has a bunch of practice mini-games, which I'm working on.

What about the Online Services - did you connect it to the Internet yet?

No. Unfortunately, I can't remember the damned password to my Wireless Router. So I'll have to figure that out this week.

So any downsides?

Not really. I could see people getting hurt using the Wii, though - either throwing out their shoulder, or smacking the person next to them as they swing the controller. It's a pretty physical game, and I'm actually sore today!

The nunchuk controller (that you use in your other hand) is too small for my hand, and if I played Madden Football all day using it, I'd have blisters.

You also need a decent amount of room in front of your TV, because you are up and moving and swinging your arms around.

So I should get one?

Absolutely. Go out and find one! The rumors in the lines were that the next shipment is coming in two weeks. It's a no-brainer - especially if you've got kids.

  Nokia N73 Camera Phone Review
I got my Nokia N73 cell phone. The main feature I wanted is a built-in camera that doesn't suck. The N73 has a 3.2MP camera w/ flash, and it has a good quality Zeiss lens.

So I bought the camera on ebay, after reading this in-depth review, for about $480 after shipping. The fun thing was that the shipping was direct from Hong Kong. I tracked it on FedEx, and on Thursday morning it was in Hong Kong. On Friday at 11am PST, it was in my hands. That's incredible if you think about it.

The Nokia N73 is a Symbian OS phone. It has a bunch of features (web access, Opera browser, javascript and flash compatible, mp3 & mpeg4 player, MS Office app & PDF reader, etc.), and I spent about 3 hours playing with it while reading the manual.

The camera does not disappoint. This cactus picture was taken with it today.

Aaron's Party

I did notice that the camera application can hang - it's hung twice in 3 days of heavy use.

I took the phone into the Cingular store so they could transfer my contacts over, and I could sign up for an unlimited data plan - which was $20/month more on top of my current bill. I also had to pick up a 3G SIM card.

One annoying thing is that the phone didn't have the standard Nokia lock/unlock keypad. By default you have to lightly press the power button and then choose lock. However, surfing the forums at I found this download that gives you the keypad locking.

The phone works well, I've downloaded gmail and google maps from I've set it up to automatically upload photos to Flickr, and I've spent hours surfing the web on the phone.

Part of the reason to get the phone was inspiration - to finally "get" the mobile app world. I want to build some websites that really work well with my mobile phone. E.g. I want to build a chat bot to get my web reporting easily via my phone. Or at least some RSS feeds that have the data I need.

In summary, the phone is really cool. The pictures are great. I'm glad to have access to the web on my mobile, and the process of buying a foreign model phone thru the internet wasn't so bad at all.

  What's Your Invalid Click Rate?

If you run AdWords ads on Google, you should turn on click destination URL auto-tagging - which appends a unique ID to the end of each click request from an AdWords ad.

Then after a month or so, you can look at your campaign report and see how many clicks Google considered "invalid". I.e. Click Fraud that they don't charge you for.

I just ran a report like this for the last month for a campaign with over 100k clicks in that timeframe, and Google counted roughly 3.5% of the clicks as invalid.

I didn't check that against my logs yet, but it should be do-able, and I could also use some of my own click fraud detection algorithms to see if I get the same result. I'll report back when I get a chance to do that.

I was thinking of putting up a site to let people report their Invalid Click rate anonymously, but I'm too busy with the shopping season right now!

  Clay Shirky Smackdown of Web 3.0

After the recent Web 2.0 conference, in which many presenters used the phrase "Web 3.0", and the recent John Markoff NYT article which used "Web 3.0" without irony, I fondly recalled the most important prophet of all things internet.

It's Clay Shirky.

Go to his web site, and bask in the answers to all current and future questions about the nature of the web and the internet.

Shirky is just so damned right about all of these things... The hits just kept coming and coming. He had a Tiger Woods-ian Y2K back in '03. He dominated.

Don't miss his sidebar, describing what the hell he thinks he's writing about. It contains brilliance like:

If I had to describe what I write about, it would be “Systems where vested interests lose out to innovation.”

Or maybe “Systems where having good participants produces better results than having good planners.”


I find that whenever I waste time thinking about what I think should happen, it interferes with my ability to predict what’s going to happen.

But I guess he's done. Apparently, by the end of 2003, he'd reached enlightenment, understood all there is, and he's reached the end of the internet. I'm just glad he keeps renewing the domain.

I wonder if that golden age of Shirky Prolificirky has passed...

When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed. Say something once, why say it again?

  Two Risk Factors for Ad Arbitrageurs

If you are an ad arbitrager making a ton of money on Google, you live a happy life. There's probably two main nightmares you have:

  1. Google cuts you off.
  2. Overture pulls your feed.

I think Overture is the more vigilant of the two at this point. For example, they pulled the feed from IntelliTXT, which now has to scramble to find ads that match their underlined words. They're currently backfilling with a lot of ASK and MSN search boxes being displayed.

  People like "PC guy" more than "Mac guy"

The Apple ads making fun of PC owners star actor Justin Long. At least they did. He's no longer doing ads for Apple - he's a movie star, you know.

In this RadarOnline report, however, I find it hilarious that they claim that:

Virtually everyone who watches it comes away liking the "PC guy" while wanting to push the "Mac guy" under a bus.

Basically, the dorky PC guy is more likable than the "unshaven, hoodie-wearing, hands-in-pockets hipster we've always imagined when picturing a Mac enthusiast."

As for myself, I kinda like the iMovie girl - because you get to hear Gisele Bündchen's infectious accent, among other things.

  The Internet Dialectic
Greg Yardley (at his newly uglified blog) was writing about Gannett's ideas on "crowdsourcing" news:

"Maybe it’s my nature, but whenever I hear about a new initiative I start thinking about ways to game it."

Actually, it's not just Greg. I think this tendency is a fundamental law of the internet, similar to say, the 1st Law of Thermodynamics.

My statement of this law would be:

Anything created on the internet simultaneously creates proportional efforts to exploit it.

Pithy corollarys include (I'm quoting myself from back around 2002): "He who corrupts the blogosphere fastest and hardest will become very rich."

Who did that? Why Google, of course (via AdSense).

  Inspiration from Christo & Jeanne Claude
National Geographic magazine has an interview of Christo and Jeanne-Claude with many inspiring and pithy quotes.
How do you define yourselves and your work?
J: Labels are important mostly for bottles of wine...

And their work?

C: We borrow space and create gentle disturbances for a few days. We inherit everything that is inherent in the space to become part of the work of art. All our projects are like fabulous expeditions. The story of each project is unique. Our projects have no precedent. And so . . .
J: . . . the hardest part of each project is to obtain the permits. Afterward, it's pleasure.

But isn't the concept the most difficult part?
J: No, the concept is easy. Any idiot can have a good idea. What is hard is to do it.

On logistical concerns during the long permitting process:

C: They are worried where people will sleep. We try to explain, it is not a rock concert. It is a work of art, and our public is different. They imagine people bringing tents. But art collectors don't do that. They will come from Aspen. They will go back to Aspen.
(emphasis mine)

They fund their own works, taking no outside money - mostly by selling the concept drawings. So far - the planning of "Over the River" has consumed $2.5M, and they have no permits yet.

And the final cost of "Over the River" will be?
C: Ah, that is another story.
J: It will cost what it will cost.

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Recent Posts

Microsoft Will NEVER Catch Google in Search
Finding Toys that aren't sold out
Advertiser Frustration with Google Quality Score
The Key to Monetization
Is the Nintendo Wii as Good as You Hoped?
Nokia N73 Camera Phone Review
What's Your Invalid Click Rate?
Clay Shirky Smackdown of Web 3.0
Two Risk Factors for Ad Arbitrageurs
People like "PC guy" more than "Mac guy"
The Internet Dialectic
Inspiration from Christo & Jeanne Claude


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Microsoft Will NEVER Catch Google in Search
Finding Toys that aren't sold out
Advertiser Frustration with Google Quality Score
The Key to Monetization
Is the Nintendo Wii as Good as You Hoped?
Nokia N73 Camera Phone Review
What's Your Invalid Click Rate?
Clay Shirky Smackdown of Web 3.0
Two Risk Factors for Ad Arbitrageurs
People like "PC guy" more than "Mac guy"
The Internet Dialectic
Inspiration from Christo & Jeanne Claude