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Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

Will Google Index You & Me?

When you look at it on a global scale Google is by far the leader when it comes to searching for online information. Nobody really questions that. But what is the next step for Google? For some time now they have been helping users to find images, videos, news reports, and so much more – but once the internet is fully categorized within the depths of Google, and the monetization is solid for all its efforts, what will Google move to after that?

It seems that I cant escape the mention of anything work related during my personal life. This weekend when reading the September issue of Discover Magazine I saw an article on DNA testing that mentioned Sergey Brin and Google’s contribution of $3.9 Million to 23andMe, a genetic testing company back in 2007. This is old news, but it got my brain thinking off to a tangent.

Could the goal behind this investment be to prime the company for a future takeover by Google? Perhaps the future for Google is to index you, and me, and all our deceased relatives. By fully indexing DNA, perhaps we will someday have the ability to load in a drop of blood, saliva, or a hair, into our computers and have Google spit out a complete list of all our relatives, their info, and real-time Google Earth images or videos from above showing what they are doing at this exact moment, all with ads of course.

It may sound far fetched – (and okay, maybe it is), but less than 50 years ago so was the idea of us having personal computers in our homes – and only a few centuries ago the world was still flat! So while it may be unrealistic, in a few generations we may be able to research the DNA of potential mates from our homes by simply entering their name (probably telepathically) into Google. What a scary thought.

About three years ago Google took on a 5% stake at AOL for a whopping $1 Billion. Today Google is not so sure that the investment was a good choice.

While they are not saying the value they believe the investment is worth, they are certainly not pleased by the past decision.

“Based on our review, we believe our investment in AOL may be impaired. After consideration of the duration of the impairment, as well as the reasons for any decline in value and the potential recovery period, we do not believe that such impairment is ‘other-than-temporary’.” Google noted in their lengthy 10-Q on June 30, 2008.

AOL apparently has also been looking for potential buyers – Certainly MSN and Yahoo have been in consideration, but one must wonder, that even if they think their $1billon investment may have been a bad idea, would they be willing to buy out AOL to keep it out of Yahoo and Microsoft’s hands? Time will tell.

Looking for free music online in China just got a lot easier – and its legal! Google recently launched Music Onebox over at Google.cn to try and grab a larger percentage of the search market over in China according to the LA Times. Currently Baidu is the Chinese leader in search – one of its strongest features is music, however, most if which is illegal.

By providing a legal alternative Google hopes to snag some additional market share. According to a Google spokesperson: “We are launching Music Onebox to give users an easy and legal way to find the music they’re looking for, and to give music labels and publishers a new channel to distribute, promote and make money off of their valuable music content.” Read more…

Today is the first day of the 2008 Olympics from Beijing China and Yahoo has made it incredibly easy for us to track the medal standings. Now, when you perform a search in Yahoo for “Olympic medals” at the top of the search result pages you’ll see the standings for the top 5 countries along with a “more” link to see the full results.

This year there will be no need to surf and hunt through various news and olympic sites as the medal standings have never been easier to find.

Yahoo has their second quarter shareholder conference call Tuesday evening and the numbers are in.

For Q2 of 2008 Yahoo’s Revenues were $1.79 Billion, representing a 6% increase over 2007 Q2 Results. Their cost of revenues were also up substantially resulting in a gross profit up by only $18 million compared to 2007. Granted that a profit of more than a Billion dollars is nothing to sneeze at, but $18 million in growth is really peanuts in this multi-billion dollar industry.

For a full rundown of all the figures or to listen to the conference call, visit Yahoo Investor Relations.

Rambler Media, a Russian company, has recently sold their contextual ad service, “Begun” to Google for $140 million according to Reuters and announced in a Google Press Release Friday. As part of the deal, Rambler also agreed to use Google results and advertising on its Russian based site, www.rambler.ru. Ramblers search results will be enhanced by Google with Google Ads being displayed along side.

“Google is very committed to giving Russian users, advertisers and partners the best possible service and experience,” said Mohammad Gawdat, Managing Director Emerging Markets, Google. “This agreement will result in better search results and more relevant advertising for our Russian users and publishers.”

Currently Rambler Media owns 50.1% of Begun and will be buying the remaining 49.9% from Bannatyne Limited before selling the entire firm to Google.

Google’s earnings are in after the second quarter report was issued yesterday. While their net income is up from the same period in 2007 by approximately $325 Million (925.1 Million in Q2 of 2007, 1.25 Billion in Q2 of 2008), this is not as high as was expected – Wall Street was expecting to see $4.74 per share – actual earnings were $4.63 per share.

With the economy down on its luck Google still managed to make more than $300 Million – roughly a 35% increase over the same period last year.

Microsofts profits for Q2 are also up by roughly 46 cents a share. They saw earnings in Q2 of 2007 at $3 Billion, and an increase of 42% to $4.3 billion for 2008. These are impressive earnings, however, Microsoft’s online business did not help much in terms of this profit. Compared to 2007, Q2 of 2008 actually saw a loss of $488 Million!

Had Microsoft’s Internet division actually turned a profit, they would have achieved Wall Streets estimate of 47 cents per share, rather than their actual 46 cents.

Yahoo has not yet released their Q2 Earnings for this year. Their shareholder conference call to discuss earnings is scheduled for July 22 at 5:00pm ET.

comScore released the latest figures for search engine rankings and their respective market share Friday, and Google has actually seen a drop! For all you Yahoo and Microsoft fans out there, don’t get too excited, it’s quite small to say the least.

For June 2008 Google has shown a 61.5% hold on market share, down 0.3% from May of 2008. Yahoo also showed a 0.3% change, only in the positive direction moving from 20.6% up to 20.9%. Microsoft had the biggest leap of a whopping 0.7% up from 8.5% to 9.2%.

When comparing numbers from June 2007 with June 2008, Google has seen a sizable gain stealing users from MSN and Yahoo. In the past 12 months Google has seen an increase of 6.6% with Yahoo and Microsoft both losing, 2.9%, and 3.1% respectively.

ICANN has recently approved a proposal to expand the availability of top level domains to virtually unlimited levels – at least if your pockets are deep enough.

On Monday the Wall Street Journal reported that businesses, or even individuals with money to burn will be able to apply for top level domain names using just about anything they want as the suffix.

What this means is, rather than the usual .com, or .ca extensions, companies could purchase the rights to brand name extensions such as “.google”, or “.ebay”, or if I was given a hefty raise and felt the need, I could spend a half million dollars and register “www.scott.vanachte”, (although I am not sure what I would do with such a pricey piece of online real estate).

Don’t get too excited however, according to ICANN it could be upwards of two years before the new domains are released, and with these vanity domains going for as much as a half million dollars, we are likely to only see them used by the big corporations until prices come down.

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Monday, July 14th, 2008

Goodbye Windows Live Expo

I am not sure where I have been for the past two years, but today is the first time I have heard about Windows Live Expo – today is also the day I heard about its scheduled demise.

Apparently this classified ad platform was considered to be a major threat for Craigslist, and this month, on July 31, Microsoft will pull the plug and the classified service launched back in February of 2006.

Considering I work online and spend at least 8 hours a day sitting in front of my computer, for me to have never heard of Windows Live Expo, is probably a good indicator of why it was ultimately a failure – quite simply, Microsoft just didn’t do a very good job getting the word out.