Dick Hardt on Identity 2.0

I attended thenextweb conference last friday. Dick Hardt was one of the speakers, he did his ‘usual’ talk on Identity 2.0. Althought it was the second time I saw his presentation in real live, it’s still inspiring and fun to watch. Online identity is becoming more and more important and initiatives like openid are about to change the way we deal with our online presence.

For those who haven’t seen Dick’s talk yet, it’s a must see:
(oh, and be sure not to miss the shirt of the guy hosting the conference in this movie)

Google Universal Search a step too far

Google has made a radical change to their search results last week. They announced a new way to present search results from the web, images, books, local and news verticals on one page: the universal search. My first thought: yeah, makes sense to do that. Second thought: does sound very similar to what other search engines have already done. And, after testing the universal search: but what if I just want webpages?

Let’s start with my first thought. The enormous amount of search verticals that Google currently offers (listed here) indeed requires a new method to return the most relevant results from different verticals. Average Google-searchers will not be aware of the verticals and need to be assisted in their search. Integrating the vertical-results on the web search sounds like a good plan.

It often surprises me how extensively new Google features are covered in the press and blogosphere. This universal search for example, is very similar to Yahoo’s Alpha, Ask’s X and Microsoft’s Imagine-Live. Even the dutch search engine ilse.nl (where I work for) already merges news, local and image results with the webresults. It’s interesting to see that it’s only big news when Google launches a new feature:

Thirth, when I perform a search I usually know where the answer can most likely be found. When I’m looking for an image, I will directly go to an image search engine. Answers for technical questions can most likely be found in a forum or discussion group, so I would perform a search for webpages. For these specific queries, I don’t want Google to merge video’s and local results through the webresults. Unfortunately, there is no option to turn this off. Google has actually replaced the websearch with universal search (they only forgot to rename the tab from ‘web’ to ‘universe’). The average user will probably only benefit from this, but advanced users like to be in control. So Google, please give me back my websearch!

Googleabout – use google without advertisements

I’m not sure if Google appreciates this, but their turns out to be a way to use google without advertisements.
How? Very simple, just start your search at http://www.google.com/search?output=googleabout and you will see a nice and clean google.

Now, let’s see what happens when the blogosphere starts encouraging everybody to use this url. I think Google will disable this feature very soon…

New google layout, not an improvement

Just noticed that Google has a new layout for the webresults, they moved the links to the search verticals (images, news etc.) and added a ‘more’ link which directs you to all other verticals of Google. Furthermore, the related searches seem to have a new location (click for larger image):

New google layout
Personally, I don’t like both changes. The links to the various verticals used to be right on top of the searchbox. Right where you need them. I don’t really see the advantage of the new location. The related searches are moved to a location which I usually ignore (advertisements). I would suggest to display these just before the first result.

Ask to launch adsense competitor

AskAs a part of Ask Sponsored Listings (ASL), Ask will launch a new contextual advertising platform in the week of May 21st. This was confirmed by Paul Vallez, Director of Product Management. This looks like a serious attempt to compete with Google Adsense.

I think Ask perfectly understands the weak point of the adsense platform: transparancy. Many adsense publishers (like myself) will agree that Google is providing minimal information. Publishers have no insight in the revenue share, the performance of individual ads and the type of advertisers. Advertisers have to deal with pretty poor statistics regarding contextual advertising. Ask may have a strong selling point by providing better and transparent tools.

The ‘problem’ remains that publishers will not exchange adsense for ASL when that will decrease their revenue. Transparancy or not, it’s the $$ that count. It will be a challenge for Ask to achieve the same coverage and CPC as Google currently has. I certainly hope they will.

We feel fine! Visualizing human feelings

We feel fine is an interesting project which analyses recent blogposts and extracts information about what the world is currently feeling. Fun idea and I think they did a great job on the user interface:

We feel fine

“Every few minutes, the system searches the world’s newly posted blog entries for occurrences of the phrases “I feel” and “I am feeling”. When it finds such a phrase, it records the full sentence, up to the period, and identifies the “feeling” expressed in that sentence (e.g. sad, happy, depressed, etc.). “

I know about a few similar initiatives, for example moodviews which works with the content of LiveJournal. I expect a lot of tools like these, the blogosphere is full of valuable information that we don’t really use at the moment. There’s a lot of potential, for example in the field of marketing.

If anybody knows other tools like wefeelfine.org / moodviews, please drop a comment.

Doubleclick acquired by Google

Wow, that’s what I call a major acquisition in advertising world: Google has bought DoubleClick for $3.1 billion (in cash). That’s 10x the yearly revenue of DoubleClick! This has just been confirmed on the Google blog.

This is immediatly the biggest acquisition of Google (almost twice as much as they paid for YouTube). What could be the reason? I quote from the Google Blog:

This new partnership represents a tremendous opportunity for us at Google to broaden and deepen our inventory of available ads and to better serve both our publishers and users. Together, Google and DoubleClick will empower agencies, advertisers, and publishers to collaborate more efficiently and effectively, which will, in turn, provide a better experience for our users.

Personally, I think the acquistion mainly comes from a strategic point of view. Google must have been really frightened that Microsoft would gain a big marketshare by buying DoubleClick (they obviously outbidded MS).

I wonder how this will influence the current adsense / adwords platform. Google will now also have access to DoubleClicks customers, will we see higher or lower CPC’s?

EMI starts moving in the right direction

Steve Jobs (Apple) and Eric Nicoli (EMI) announced today that they will start selling DRM-free music! Now why exactly is that good news?

a) your purchased songs from iTunes will no longer be tied to your iPod. You can transfer them to any other device you like.

b) now that EMI decided to drop DRM, other labels will probably follow in the coming period.

Is there also a downside? Well, unfortunately yes. The DRM-free music will be sold at 30c more than the current offer on iTunes. For these 30 cents, the DRM has been removed and you will receive a higher quality audio (256kbps).

I’m still wondering why it took the music industry that long to understand that the online music sales are lacking behind because most people don’t really appreciate DRM on mediafiles. To be honest, I’m sure that they did know but just didn’t have the guts to give DRM-free music a try. I’m glad that EMI responded to Steve Jobs’ request back in february. It’s a good start which will probably give the online music sales a big boost.

Oh, by the way, what EMI did is definitively a good step but we shouldn’t give them too many credits. As Steve Jobs mentioned today: “we are offering people nothing more than what they get when they buy a cd directly and rip it.”.

That’s it. Nothing more.

Why is netvibes getting that much attention in the blogosphere?

I’m always a bit surprised by the amount of attention that is given to netvibes in the blogosphere. Sure, it’s a great app and they are pretty successful in what they are doing. The same however holds for other personalized homepages like Pageflakes and Protopage. I always assumed that all the buzz was caused by the fact that most early adopters are using netvibes, a recent poll on read/writeweb however proves the opposite. Exactly 1700 people answered the question: which personalized homepage do you use?

The top3:
1. Pageflakes (30%)
2. Google reader (26%)
3. Netvibes (21%)

Now it’s time to compare these numbers with the attention that number 1 (pageflakes) and number 3 (netvibes) are receiving from the blogosphere.

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Cross-browser ‘bookmark this site’ script

I always thought that only Microsoft Internet Explorer supported a ‘bookmark this site’ functionality. By doing some research on the web I found a few code snippets that did the trick for other browsers as well. I compiled these scripts together in the following bookmarkthis(title, url) function. It’s completely cross-browser (compatible with IE4+, Firefox 1.x+ and Opera7+). Have fun with it!

function bookmarkthis(title,url) {
  if (window.sidebar) { // firefox
     window.sidebar.addPanel(title, url, "");
  } else if (document.all) { // IE
     window.external.AddFavorite(url, title);
  } else if (window.opera && window.print) { // opera
     var elem = document.createElement('a');