Tag: yahoo

Del.icio.us rolls out new (Yawn) features!

Del.icio.us, the original Social Bookmarking site is now starting to look long in the tooth and distinctly jaded beside newcomers such as Ma.gnolia.

However, all is not lost. Despite it seeming that all the innovation was sucked out of Del.icio.us when it was purchased by Yahoo! (what new functionality have they rolled out since the acquisition?), it now appears that Del.icio.us is about to launch a new look to the website and do away with the full-stops!

Seriously though, a site re-design and getting rid of the full-stops is the best they can come up with in terms of feature add? Oh dear!

Ma.gnolia, Del.icio.us has just confirmed that I made the right decision to move to you (and use your import tool to bring my Del.icio.us bookmarks with me!).

Yahoo! indirectly upping the cost of acquisition for Microsoft?

Microsoft made an offer of $44.6bn for Yahoo! recently which Yahoo! rejected saying it “substantially undervalues” the company (personally I think it waaaaay overvalued Yahoo! and Microsoft caught a lucky break that the offer was spurned).

The New York Times is reporting today though that Microsoft are determined to follow through on this.

However, both the New York Times and News.com have published a story today that Yahoo! have offered golden parachute to all its remaining employees (it terminated around 1,000 of its 14,000 employees in the last week).

According to the News.com report, the package:

will kick into effect should that employee lose his job within two years after a new owner takes over, should she get terminated without cause, or if the employee decides it’s time to leave for “good reason.”

…The golden parachute also includes health and dental coverage for the length of employees’ severance awards, as well as reimbursement of outplacement services up to two years, or a maximum of $15,000, depending on job title

In any significant merger there are necessarily layoffs (particularly of people with similar job functions) – this seems like a cynical ploy on Yahoo!s part to up the price indirectly for Microsoft while grabbing some goodwill headlines at the same time.

Foxmarks to launch next great search engine?

Google had a great idea. Order your search results based on the number of times a site is linked to. Brilliant! A link to a site is counted as a vote of confidence in the site’s quality/veracity. And it works because people generally only link to interesting sites.

Foxmarks is a nifty little Firefox plugin which uploads your Firefox bookmarks to a central server, so you can synchronise your bookmarks across machines. Again brilliant – if you typically use more than one computer (one at home and one at work, for example).

I read today on TechCrunch that FoxMarks is going to use the bookmark information which users of the plugin have uploaded, to create a new search engine. Privacy concerns aside, I love it!

This is the 1,157th blog post on this site. I don’t have any numbers on the amount of outward links I have created in those posts but I imagine two per post would be a conservative estimate. So I have created, in the order of 2,300 links on this blog. And I write in and contribute to other blogs as well. Let’s say I have created (again conservatively) a total of 2,500 links.

Now how many sites have I bookmarked? About 160. Therefore, any site I go to the trouble of bookmarking, must be significantly more important than one I simply link to.

Foxmarks are taking the Google model of a link as a vote of confidence and replacing it with the bookmark as a vote of confidence. Will it work? Well, according to Mike Arrington, who got a demo recently:

it definitely has a “wow” factor. Searches for most things ended up with incredible results.

Foxmarks also shows if the results appear on Google and Yahoo, and on what page in the results they appear. For many of the queries, the top result on Foxmarks was quite obviously the perfect result – but it appeared, if at all, deep on the result set for Google and Yahoo. Terms that are likely to have a lot of SEO pollution (ecommerce in particular), the results were strikingly better on Foxmarks v. Google.

Having said all that, Google have their Google Browser Sync application which has similar functionality to Foxmarks currently, so fine tuning their search results with bookmark info should be trivial for them.

I hope they do because getting 1,210,000 results for the search term “Microsoft Hotmail deletes email” is just ridiculous, even considering how bad Hotmail is!

Salim joins Yahoo!

I see Salim reporting that he has started a new job with Yahoo! Congrats Salim.

Salim has been hired to head up Yahoo! Brickhouse – a new semi-autonomous Yahoo! R&D house which will create new apps for Yahoo! or to be spun off. Yahoo! Pipes was a Yahoo! Brickhouse project, for example.

Salim has been here in Cork several times, most recently speaking at a number of it@cork events (including the now infamous it@cork Web 2.0 mini-conference) and before that Salim lived in Cork for a year or so while he was involved in setting up BUPA Ireland in Fermoy.

I can’t wait to see what he does with the Brickhouse – an interesting project, led by an even more interesting guy.

Yahoo! releases Pipes – online programming for dummies!

Yahoo! released Yahoo! Pipes today to almost universal acclaim! What is Pipes?

According to Yahoo!’s Jeremy Zawodny it is:

a hosted service that lets you remix feeds and create new data mashups in a visual programming environment. The name of the service pays tribute to Unix pipes, which let programmers do astonishingly clever things by making it easy to chain simple utilities together on the command line

Yahoo! Pipes visual interface

Okaaaay.

Put another way, Pipes is an online app which allows you to visually remix RSS and intelligently filter and output the results!

Even better, you can take Pipes that others have created which you like, clone them, tweak them slightly and re-publish them as your own. Creating apps on the web has never been so easy.

I created a quick pipe here which searches for my domain through 6 RSS search engines, filters unique results, sorts and outputs in a number of formats including rss and json! This pipe also allows you to edit the query so you can enter your own search term.

Yahoo! Pipes output

I love Richard MacManus’ comment:

The UI seems a little geeky and kind of reminds me of Ning (not sure if that’s a compliment or not, as Ning never took off). But I’ve long thought that RSS remix feeds are the future of RSS – and certainly one way to try and filter information overload

It is my understanding that this is what Jeff Nolan’s Teqlo is all about as well – this is going to be an exciting space to keep an eye on.

[Disclosure – I’m not that good a programmer, I simply took an example pipe and modified it!]

UPDATE: The site is after slowing right down in the last hour. I guess they are getting hammered with interested traffic.

Yahoo's open hackday

Yahoo’s first open Hackday is starting this coming Friday (29th) in Sunnyvale California. Upcoming.org has more details including details on how to register.

Michael Arrington
is MC’ing the event and good friend Salim Ismail is one of the judges.

Apparently there is a surprise band showing up as well – no I can’t confirm it is U2!

Could podcasting get content through the Great Firewall of China?

I wrote a couple of pieces last week about Google’s Internet censorship in China and the debate continues this week.

The four largest American companies who are actively helping the Chinese government censor the Internet are Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Cisco Systems. These four companies have been invited to a U.S. congressional subcommittee hearing on February 15 on the subject of U.S. Internet firms operating procedures in China.

The ‘fab four’ failed to turn up for a hearing this Wednesday are were roundly berated by Tom Lantos, D.-Calif., one of the caucus leaders:

Companies that have blossomed in this country and make billions, a country that reveres freedom of speech, have chosen to ignore that core value in expanding their reach overseas, and to erect a ‘Great Firewall’ to suit Beijing’s purposes,” he said. “These massively successful high-tech companies, which couldn’t bring themselves to send their representatives to this meeting today, should be ashamed. With all their power and influence, wealth and high visibility, they neglected to commit to the kind of positive action that human rights activists in China take every day. They caved in to Beijing’s demands for the sake of profits, or whatever else they choose to call it.

It is thought they will attend the Feb 15th hearing!

I note see now that the BBC are reporting that MSN is considering changing its censorship policies:

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s senior lawyer, said it would now remove blog entries only if it gets a “legally binding notice” from the government of that nation…. He added that only people in the nation where the entry breaks local laws will be blocked from seeing the controversial comments. In all other nations access to the entry will be unrestricted.

This is a marginal improvement over MSN’s existing policy of deleting accounts of people who wrote about ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’, or ‘demonstration’ but it is still shoring up the ‘great firewall‘ of China.

Interestingly, Reuters is reporting that Bill Gates has come out against censorship today:

The spread of private e-mail means online users could distribute banned news despite government injunctions, he told a news conference.

“You may be able to take a very visible Web site and say that something shouldn’t be there, but if there’s a desire by the population to know something, it’s going to get out,” he said.

However, Gates said Microsoft, the world’s biggest computer software company, had to meet legal requirements of the countries where it does business.

I have spoken to several representatives of search engines recently and they have all told me that search engines are not indexing the audio content of podcasts and don’t have technologies to do so right now.

I wonder, if podcasts are more difficult to index, is there a role for podcasts to get content through the Great Firewall?

Google censors the Internet

The New York Times published an article yesterday (and I think I heard a reference this morning on Morning Ireland) about Google’s new Google.cn site.

According to the article, the new Chinese version of the Google search engine:

will not allow users to create personal links with Google e-mail or blog sites, will comply with Chinese law and censor information deemed inappropriate or illegal by the Chinese authorities

One of the reasons Google is hobbling its own technology in China is that Google.com is losing ground in the search market in China to Baidu.com – a Chinese search engine due to government censorship on some of Google.com’s content. A pre-censored Google.cn should have no such issues.

Google will argue that it is not putting profit before human rights – it is merely complying with the law of the land it wants to make profits in (they might not use that terminology exactly!) – the same as all the other major tech suppliers working in China (Cisco, Yahoo!, MSN, etc.). However, if these companies worked together, they could flout the repressive laws in China and theree would be little the Chinese Government could do against such a united front from their most important IT suppliers.

The price of doing business in China? You have to be prepared to sell your soul.

UPDATE:
I see John Battelle and Danny Sullivan of SearchEngineWatch have pieces on this as well.

Google’s motto of “Do no Evil” should now be changed to “Do no Evil (unless it interferes with the bottom line)”, I guess!

Web 2.0 to suffer from United States Department of Justice request?

I see Xeni Jardin over at Boing Boing has posted an article on how the US Department of Justice have requested a weeks worth of search data from the major US search engines. Seemingly Yahoo, AOL, and MSN simply handed over the data without any question. Google however held out and is now being taken to court by the DoJ for refusing to comply with the order.

Google’s reason for not complying? Well it wasn’t on privacy grounds, nope, Google refused on grounds that the request was too broad and burdensome!

The Department of Justice is playing the monsters under the bed children protection card:

the information it has requested, which includes one million random Web addresses and records of all Google searches from a one-week period, is essential to its upcoming defense of the constitutionality of the Child Online Protection Act

Danny Sullivan over at SearchEngineWatch has a rapidly updating analysis of this story – according to Danny:

a more accurate way for the government to assess how often children might encounter porn through search engines would be to conduct their own research. Indeed, they have. Government Report Says MSN Search Adult Filter Most Effective from the SEW Blog back in June covers this report (PDF format) that the US Government Accountability Office did back in June. From what I can see, it measured how often children might encounter porn through image search. To do the assessment, no subpoenas were required.

What was interesting for me was how the other search engines caved and handed over the data. I was interviewing Bradley Horowitz of Yahoo! the other night for a Podleaders.com podcast and, in the context of Yahoo! having previously provided information to the Chinese Government which resulted in a Chinese journalist being jailed for 10 years, I specifically asked him:

If this had happened in the US would Yahoo! have fought the government request in the courts?

Bradley’s response was interesting – he said:

We are bound to abide by the laws of any country in which we do business… so under a court order or a subpoena we would hand it over

In this case however, as far as I know, there was no court order or subpoena – simply a request from the Department of Justice. In fairness to Bradley he makes it clear that he is not a policy officer of Yahoo! and Yahoo! are not the only search engine which complied with the request.

However, you have to think that this request is only setting a precedent for far more reaching and specific requests to come in the future. What will this do to Web 2.0 and people’s willingnes to host their data on other companies servers, I wonder?

I see Damien Mulley has posted on this as well.

UPDATE:
John Battelle has published another post on this subject showing that the Department of Justice’s motives are far darker than previously suspected – specifically:

From the motion the DOJ filed to force Google to comply with the subpoena:

“The subpoena asks Google to produce an electronic file containing ‘[a]ll URL’s that rea available to be located through a query on your company’s search engine as of July 31 2005.”

and

“all queries that have been entered on your company’ search engine between June 1, 2005 and July 31, 2005.”

God alone knows why they would want all that data from Google (and presumably the other search engines as well) – but we know it has nothing to do with seeing if children can access porn.

As John said:

No way in hell Google would give that up, given the company’s penchant for secrecy. Sure, the DOJ might guarantee that the data would not enter the public record, but, once in the DOJ’s hands, it’s out of Google’s control.