Tag Archives: yahoo

Flickr Riot

Yahoo! takes its corporate clod-hoppers to the photosharing site… and messes up bigtime.

Why do big companies like to stifle little ones? You’d have thought that in the brave new Web 2.0 world, big brands would have a better way to deal with mergers and acquisitions but apparently not. Example: we are currently witnessing a major user-generated riot as long-term Flickr users are informed by Yahoo! that they will soon have to use a Yahoo! id to access and use the photo-sharing site.

We’re with the rioters.

Yahoo! bought Flickr a while back. Since then it’s grown hugely and doubtless benefited from Yahoo!’s grown-upness and corporate clout. As for us users, the folk who actually populate Flickr with our stuff, Yahoo!’s presence has until now been pretty benign. We’ve also been patted on the back for being ‘old skool’ by Flickr when we sign in — i.e. a user from before the buyout. This makes us feel kind of with it and proud in a very ‘get me i’m an early adopter’ type way. We’re also the biggest marketing tool Flickr has. Only yesterday we were earnestly telling colleages that ‘Flickr changed my life’. And it has.

Here’s an email that one of us sent on receiving the mail saying that I would soon need a Yahoo! id to sign in — the petulant tone is particularly important:

I don’t want a sucky Yahoo! account.

I hate Yahoo!

I like being an old skool user.

Pooooh.

I guess that Flickr/Yahoo! are betting they can afford to lose the old-timers for the sake of more joined-upness and the ability to flog Yahoo! products to the Flickr users who are left. We’re just left feeling that something brilliant has now been tainted and that — much like when Google took over YouTube — the party is somewhat over. And — more worrying for Flickr — I don’t know if I’m going to be envangelising about Flickr for much longer — not if it involves becoming a Yahoo! user. Urgh.

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More Media Convergence

TiVo and Yahoo! join forces.

tivo yahoo.jpgYahoo! is a planning to offer its internet-based services through TiVo’s digital video recorders. Users of Yahoo!’s TV page will be able to click on a ‘record to TiVo’ button directly from a television program listing to remotely schedule recordings. Eventually, Yahoo!’s traffic and weather content, as well as its users’ photos, will be viewable on televisions via TiVo’s broadband service and easy-to-use screen menu.

TiVo subscribers can already remotely schedule recordings from the TiVo website but the new deal will give the PVR pioneer access to Yahoo!’s much larger user base and hopefully gain some desperately needed customers. TiVo currently has about 3.6 million subscribers in the US but it added fewer new customers in its last fiscal second quarter than it did the previous year. And even though the company posted its first profit in its eight year history during that quarter, some analysts are questioning whether TiVo can continue to grow in the face of competitive products from satellite and cable companies which offer lower subscription fees. There is also the looming shadows of viewing content online and do-it-all third generation games consoles which threaten to stall the PVR revolution before it’s even really begun.

Yahoo! meanwhile is seeing tremendous growth as people increasingly turn to the Internet for news, entertainment, communication and other services. But Yahoo! is also under pressure from rivals Google and Microsoft to expand its empire into other areas.

Full story from ABC News.

TiVo screengrab nicked from Engadget.

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Microsoft Enters Search Ad Market

Playing catch-up with the likes of Google and Yahoo!, Microsoft unveils its own system for selling search-based advertising.

Currently, the ads on Microsoft’s MSN’s search engine have been sold by Yahoo! The company now intends that all of its ads will be sold in-house by Spring next year. Microsoft founder Bill Gates will demonstrate his commitment to online advertising as a sector when he opens the inaugural conference of the UK’s internet advertising industry next month (as reported in The Guardian).

Last year online overtook radio advertising in terms of overall share, reaching a level of nearly 4% in the UK – the Internet Advertising Bureau says it is on track to overtake the market size of outdoor by the end of 2007. Last year spending on ad searches, pop-ups and other forms of online advertising rocketed 62% year-on-year to hit £653.3m in 2004, from £407.8m in 2003.

The New York Times reports that the search-based advertising system to be used by MSN aims to improve on the services already offered by Google and Yahoo! by allowing marketers to target users based on their sex, age and location. Microsoft already owns a lot of demographic information on its users gleaned via services such as hotmail and its Passport identity service. Google and Yahoo! only allow a limited targeting of search ads by location, with Google arguing that it doesn’t need demographic data to direct its ads because Web searchers can directly indicate what they may want to buy through their keyword search queries. Tim Armstrong, vice president for advertising at Google, also plays the privacy card: “We are very heavy on user privacy. So our way of targeting advertising relies heavily on what we know about the content people are looking for.” Google already takes into account other factors such as the time of day and the geographical location of the user.

Microsoft also believes it has another advantage over Google: the building of relationships with web site owners, many of whom are users of its software and online services. But Google ads is already an appealing option for small businesses looking to raise their profile online in a cost effective way. It remains to be seen if Microsoft can achieve the same resonance with these entrepreneurs that Google has.

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Yahoo! Buys Into War

Yahoo! employs a veteran war reporter to blog global conflicts.

Yahoo! has enlisted Kevin Sites, a former producer and correspondent for NBC and CNN, to produce a website that will report on war around the world. Sites is probably most famous for the footage he shot for NBC of a US marine shooting and killing an apparently unarmed Iraqi prisoner in Falluja last year.

The site will be called “Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone” and represents Yahoo!’s first major foray into original online video programming. The dispatches will begin on September 26th. Yahoo! is also building a large beachhead in Santa Monica to build relationships with Hollywood, both to buy content and to produce its own. It intends to tap into the rapidly growing demand for video advertising on the Internet and believes that war reporting is likely to be a huge growth area for attracting eyeballs.

The show will basically catalogue modern war fare. Sites intends to visit every place on earth that is defined by international organisations as a war or conflict zones. The list currently stands at around 36 countries. Sites will write a 600-800 word dispatch every day and produce a slide show of 5 to 10 digital photographs. He will also narrate audio travelogues and host regular online chats with Yahoo! users.

According to Sites, this format consisting of edited and unedited material will help to counter growing public distrust of network news. “We are a journalistic entity trying to do things in a responsible way you don’t always see on the Internet.”

The New York Times has the full story. Via Gawker.

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I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

How search engines may be taking over the world …

Search [engines] will ultimately be as good as having 1,000 human experts who know your tastes scanning billions of documents within a split second. It will model the human brain. – Gary Flake, one of the seven Distinguished Engineers at Microsoft.

This week, Time Magazine writes about the future of search. According to the article, the battle is on for the next generation of search – one that can successfully harvest the projected $22bn worldwide that search-engine advertising is expected to be worth by 2010.

Google remains the market leader in search handling 36.5% of queries. Yahoo! is surprisingly close behind, with 30.5% and MSN has 15.5%, according to comScore Media Metrix. The Big Three, as they are termed, are investing aggressively in search technology – Google alone earmarked $4bn earlier this year for growth. But Time identifies a group of start ups, all of course acquisition targets for the Big Three, that may also hold the key to the future of search.

Some of them, like photo sharing site Flickr, have already been pounced on – it was bought by Yahoo! earlier this year. Yahoo! was responding quickly to the growing phenomena of tagging – a simple device whereby users label websites with descriptive tags, building a folksonomy- a taxonomy of knowledge organised by ordinary people. Flickr is organised with a communal tagging model and Yahoo! have already developed a tagline to market tags across all of its user-created content: “Better search through people.”

Open source stuff like Flickr is already being used to enhance functionality for community sites. This week street art collective Wooster launched Streetsy, essentially a graffiti photo library which is on Flickr and is catalogued using its tags (see BST article ‘Coming up from the streets’), . The commercial world has also become wise to the potential of enhanced search: ABC now invites users to view news locations via Google Earth. The news site knows a competitor when it sees one: Google Earth is currently compiling an overview of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation – it is likely to be the definitive source of images of the catastophe.

Meanwhile, A9.com, Amazon’s search subsidiary has sent trucks around 22 US cities with digital cameras linked to laptops to photograph every street. So far it has 35 million pictures, which will be overlaid on maps. Microsoft is combining the approaches from the air – its Virtual Earth project is flying planes over cities to take pictures. The aim is to have views from all directions so users can circle buildings onscreen. The aim, according to MSN, is to create “a fully immersive virtual-reality experience.”

BST has already covered one of the most touchy feely new search facilities: Blinkx.TV which can find video clips based on dialogue searches. Speech recognition technology is now improving so rapidly that the company can capture the audio tracks of videos and turn them into searchable text – making any recorded spoken word searchable.

The next step for plain old word search is semantic search – looking for meaning, not just text. Oren Etzioni, a University of Washington computer scientist, uses language-analysis programs to power KnowItAll, which scans documents for facts. So far, KnowItAll has extracted 900 million facts – enabling it to answer questions. Nosa Omoigui, a former Microsoft researcher, has founded Bellevue-based Nervana, which analyses language by linking word patterns contextually to answer questions in defined subject areas, such as medical research literature. In short, the net is soon going to be able to read and research for us.

The marketing press also reported this week that Google has moved into offline advertising, buying up print ad space in tech titles such as PC Magazine and Maximum PC. The print ads are labelled as “Ads by Google.” Joshua Stylman, managing partner at search marketing firm Reprise Media, says of the move: “Inevitable is my gut reaction. Search marketing works because of the whole relevancy factor. The model is transcendent, and clearly, the model is scalable. It was a matter of time for it to start to migrate offline.”

Maybe the vision of an utterly converged future – where Amazon, Google and Microsoft become the all powerful ‘Googlezon‘ and swallow all offline media – isn’t that far off.

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Yahoo! targets the VoIP market

Yahoo! is after a bigger chunk of the internet telephony (VoIP) market which, according to one analyst, is ‘fast becoming the new killer app of the internet.’

Competition for subscribers to services which offer cheap phone calls over the Internet is hotting up in the UK — you may have seen the ads for Vonage all over the tube and Metro this week touting their VoIP service. Late-starter Yahoo! plans to leverage its brand to win a slice of the pie.

Cutesy Skype Technologies currently leads the VoIP consumer market with more than 30 million users. Yahoo! therefore has a lot of catching up to do but its existing user base and brand will be a great help. AOL and Microsoft have both recently included voice capabilities into their messaging services as well. However, Yahoo! has the key emotional appeal that has been so well exploited by TiVo and Google, and now Skype. In The Economist this week, Paul Saffo of the Institute for the Future (what a great job!), says: “MSN and AOL are going nowhere … [they have] no soul, no passion.”

Yahoo! needs to take great care with its brand if it is to leverage this. VoIP has great emotional tug as a thing – Skype on its site talks about case histories of users who have ‘fallen in love via Skype’.

Last week, Yahoo! launched Messenger 7.0 which includes free PC to PC VoIP serice and voicemail. During beta trials in May, the company saw a two-thirds increase in voice usage among users. The full story is available via the rivetting Computer Business Review.

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New Maps are Streets Ahead

Forget (just for a minute) online music: there’s a new battle underway between two of the biggest dotcom survivors. This one’s being fought over maps. The winners? Everyone.

map showing location of Tayyab Kebab HouseBoth Google and Yahoo have recently released online mapping services — given an address, they will show you the location, how to get there, and allow you to search for nearby businesses. Yahoo’s service covers just the US and Canada, whilst Google already has the UK online as well, with plans for global coverage. Want to find a curry in London E1? Easy.

So far, so dotcom — these services may look like Streetmap on steroids, but the business model is the same old same old — show some search results, and hook in some relevant ads as a revenue stream.

But shortly after the launch of Google Maps, something important happened. Hackers took the code apart, analysed how it worked, and started building their own services using Google’s data. We’re not talking just sending a friend the link to the map co-ordinates for a party, we’re talking fully-functional, complex applications based around the Google data and (gorgeous) Google Maps interface. Early efforts include Paul Rademacher’s housing map, which hooked into the Craigslist database of available rental properties across the US, and the (in)famous Chicago Crime Map, which is searchable down to individual police beats. A nice way to find a safe route home (or as a cynical acquaintance would have it, ‘a neat way to locate a dealer’).

Hackers have exploited online services in this way before — in the UK there has been a long-simmering dispute between Streetmaps and coders about the reappropriation of their data. Such repurposing has generally stripped out the ads which create Streetmap’s revenue stream. The understandable response of a traditional business to seeing its profits eroded? Call in the lawyers.

But Google and Yahoo did something altogether untraditional — impressed by the creative work being done without their permission, they formally published the programming interfaces to their mapping systems, and officially opened the system to hackers under reasonably accomodating free licenses. Crucially, they’ve done so in such a way that they can still place ads and make money from systems developed by others. It’s win-win: coders get to make cool new services, and Google and Yahoo still make a profit: a ‘very now’ business model.

But why are people so fired up about free access to good maps? In the UK at least, the answer is simple: maps cost money. Lots of it. The official UK map data is copyrighted and maintained by the Ordnance Survey. Commerical use of their data is expensive. As a reaction against such mapping monopolies, there is a worldwide movement for the development of copyright-free, grassroots-maintained cartographic data. Understandably, it’s a slow process. So the sudden availablility of excellent map data, with the bonus of complete working programming tools to harness it simply for all manner of new applications, is a godsend to developers. The only real concern is articulated by the ‘open maps’ activists: that Google and Yahoo are, after all, commercial services, and as such reserve the right to change the terms of service, or even pull them completely at any time. This is a powerful argument in favour of the grassroots approach, but for many developers, its a moot point: they have a cool idea and they want to do get it online today, not years from now when the openmappers have finished pacing out London street by street.

So far, there has been little sign of UK-specific applications built on Google’s or Yahoo’s systems. The UK is an epicentre of the open mapping movement, and many of the most impressive UK-based projects, such as Heath Bunting’s Skateboarders’ Map of Bristol are already built on free data. But as new developers get on the mapping bandwagon, that’s sure to change — ethical concerns aside, the newly licensed commerical services are easy to use, pretty to look at, and have already picked up impressive momentum.

Today you might not have access to a continuously-updated anti-gridlock site, or an at-a-glance map which will help you find an affordable property in a high-ranking school catchment, but don’t blink — give it a couple of months and the way we look at our city will probably have changed forever.

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