Filters, Agents and Aggregators

Russell Beattie writes:

I was wondering if anyone has done a mashup of an RSS News Aggregator and a SpamAssassin like filtering algorithm yet? For two reasons. First would be for referrer links to filter out splogs so I only see real referrers from real blogs. As a person, you quickly get a pretty good idea of the domains that are real blogs, and which are another-splog-ad-trap-full-of-crap.blogspot.com, no? Itd be nice if my news aggregator (Ive been using NetNewsWire lately) would grey-out the junk for me.

On the flip side of this, it be great if I was accessing my RSS news via my mobile phone if only the stuff that is most likely interesting to me showed up. Or if I was using my desktop, the stuff that I thought was great (because I trained a filter with my clicks) would be highlighted or moved to the top of the list, so I read that stuff first. And conversely, the stuff that I rarely if ever click on would float down to the bottom of the order where I dont have to worry about it unless Im really bored. Since I interact with my aggregator quite a bit – choosing which subfolders to read in which order, clicking through to both articles and to links in those articles, etc. it seems like a no brainer to funnel that stuff through a proxy to train a filter, no?

Search is Commodity Again

Nicholas Carr writes:

Do a search on Google or MSN or Yahoo, and you’ll find little differentiation in the relevance of the results. Yes, if you’re a super-sophisticated searcher, you may be able to point to variations that you think are important, but casual searchers won’t notice any difference – and the vast, vast majority of searchers are casual searchers. There may be another great, proprietary breakthrough in internet search in the future, but for the moment Google has lost its lead. As for expanding search to more specialized areas, like 18th century manuscripts or academic working papers on quantum physics, that’s not going to make much of a difference to Joe and Jane Searcher, neither of whom gives a toss about musty books or egghead treatises.

Of course, Google knows this, as do its competitors. They’re all looking for ways to increase switching costs, or, as we used to say, make search sticky.

Maybe the basic internet search engine is fated to be a cheap commodity running behind the scenes. And maybe those who control the search function – and most of the related ad revenues – won’t be the guys running the engine but those who own the desktop or the portal (or whatever replaces the desktop or the portal).

Microsoft’s Online Push

WSJ writes about a memos by Ray Ozzie and subsequent email by Bill Gates:

Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates has endorsed a radical reshaping of how his company develops software and services, citing an internal memo that says much about the challenges Microsoft faces, and underscores the rise of an emerging technical leader at the company.

In an email dated Oct. 30 sent to top Microsoft executives and engineers, Mr. Gates said the software giant needs to better address technologies and trends that are fueling a new wave of money-making on the Internet. “The next sea change is upon us,” Mr. Gates wrote.

The core of Mr. Gates’s email, which was examined by The Wall Street Journal, is a memo from Ray Ozzie, Microsoft’s chief technology officer, who describes some of Microsoft’s missed opportunities and also tips a hat to companies such as Google Inc., Salesforce.com Inc., Skype Technologies SA and other start-ups that have pioneered Internet services.

The coming “services wave” will be very disruptive, Mr. Gates writes in his introductory email. “We have competitors who will seize on these approaches and challenge us — still, the opportunity for us to lead is very clear.”

Dave Winer has full text of the memo and email.

Ajax on Mobiles

Matt Croydon writes: “I predict that 2006 will be the year of mobile Ajax. While I might be stretching the Ajax term a bit beyond Javascript and XMLHTTPRequest, I expect to see a new breed of apps and services with that Ajax feel to them hitting mobile devices in 2006. Googles offering is just (as usual) before its time. On the horizon we also see Nokias WebCore based browser which will be more than capable of traditional Ajax, more devices shipping with Flash and SVG support, connected tablets (Nokia 770 and the PSP), and more. Trust me, 2006 is going to be a wild ride.”

TECH TALK: Microsoft Live: Analysis (Part 3)

Russell Beattie called Microsofts Live services Monopoly 4.0:

The names that Microsoft chose to launch with show their true intentions and motives. Instead of creating a new Live service and concentrating on making that a new profitable business, they instead launched Windows Live and Office Live as extensions to their desktop monopolies. Live.com isnt just for new online web apps (as it would appear at first glance) but are meant to be integrated consumer services just like Apples iTunes. Ray Ozzie actually gave that as an example today in explaining the power of tying all their different products and services together in one seamless package for consumers.

But thats the key word here of course: Tying.

Though it doesnt seem to make sense for Live to have the Windows or Office names right now – live.com is just another web dashboard at the moment – there are far more ambitious plans to come. The Windows and Office monikers are there because Microsoft will, of course, be up to its old tricks by heavily integrating Live services into the desktop sucking the air supply out of any online competitors. It doesnt seem that they should be allowed to do this sort of thing, but the success of iTunes seems to have given them a new excuse to start tying products again. And hell, the DOJ agreement only lasts until 2007, no? I can easily see MS adding links throughout their OS and Office products as they have with Passport, Hotmail and MSN in an effort to push these new services.

Om Malik compared Microsoft to Macy: In the fashion world, haute couture designers like Tom Ford and Dolce & Gabana create eye-popping outfits, that impress the fashionistas worldwide, and generate gushing headlines around the planet. A few hundred of them are sold at prices high enough to pay off the debt of some struggling nation. However, a few months later, pale imitations of that daring vision start to show up in mainstream stores like Macys, and thousands of consumers buy them. Thats when the real money is madeThe Web 2.0 pioneers who created some fantastic new apps are like those star designers. They created the template of whats cool. A few months later, just like Macys Microsoft learnt the new babble. Microsoft Office Live, is the watered down version of Web 2.0, wrapped in a business model for folks who dont know and frankly dont care about Ajax or whatever that goes into the cauldron.

Om Malik also captured all of Microsofts potential competition.

Phil Wainewright made the point that advertising may not be the right model:

I am frankly bemused that anyone seriously believes Microsoft or anyone else is going to fund their on-demand applications from advertising revenues. The idea is complete bull, on two counts.

First up, ads in applications don’t work. All the evidence from the past ten years of online services is that the more engaged the user is in pursuing an activity, the less likely their attention will be diverted by an ad.

The second factor is that the world does not revolve around advertising, it revolves around trade. Businesses need to be able to make and sell stuff before they have any money left over to spend on advertising.

Fred Wilson doesnt think it is a big deal: Windows Live is lame. I honestly could not find a single thing I’d use it for. Of course, that doesn’t mean that others won’t find it useful. But I already have a feed reader (actually a bunch of them). I already have a VOIP client and an integrated IM client. I already have several email apps. I already have a damn good social bookmarks managerThis is not going to be a repeat of the late 80s and early 90s when Microsoft slowly and surely put all the desktop software companies out of business. The web is not a platform that Microsoft controls. We the people control it.

Dana Blankenhorn wrote: What Microsoft has done today is to try and tilt the market’s reality back into a proprietary direction, placing a new business model on an old reality. The plan is to have a variety of paid tiers for online versions of Office, delivering basic functionality for the price of looking at ads, and more functions as you pay moreThat is a sea change. Microsoft is moving toward a business model first pioneered in the mid-1990s by America Online.

Tomorrow: Emerging Markets Opportunity

Continue reading TECH TALK: Microsoft Live: Analysis (Part 3)