They say it started in the autumn of 2004 in an online chat room. It ended on Saturday with the arrest of twelve adults and five minors by police and security services across southern Ontario. In a massive show of brute force and imaginative investigative cooperation between law enforcement agencies, Canadian security officials shut down a homegrown group of terrorists allegedly planning one or more attacks similar to the one that destroyed the Federal Building in Oklahoma City eleven years ago.

Information beyond the names and addresses of those arrested is obviously difficult to obtain at this time though media speculations suggests one of the intended targets was the office complex beside the Metro Toronto Convention Center, the location of the annual Toronto Search Engine Strategies Conference, which houses the Toronto branch of CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) and the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police). Read more…

Yahoo and eBay have formed a strategic partnership in order to tie up a number of loose ends both firms feared losing to Google. The agreement, announced earlier today, will see the each firm provide functions and services to each other and each other’s users in areas ranging from search results, graphical advertising, online payments, the creation of a co-branded toolbar and an opportunity for both firms to explore “pay-per-call” advertising options. Read more…

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Thursday, May 25th, 2006

Congratulations Barry and Yisha

Noted search journalist Barry Schwartz (aka: rustybrick) is getting married on Sunday to his financee of eight months, Yisha Tversky.

Barry issued the first known marriage proposal via search engine when the folks at Ask Jeeves (now Ask.com) helped him pop the question by placing his proposal page at the top of search results for a keyword phrase he knew Yisha would be searching for (her name).

Yisha, who is about to marry one of the nicest guys in the industry, immediately said yes and hopeless romantics through-out the industry (like us here at StepForth) smiled and wiped stray tears from our eyes when Barry shared the news.

Due to Barry’s notoriety, the search industry paparazzi are rumored to be planning a stakeout of the wedding. Watch for photos to be published on Flickr sometime next week, or perhaps on the site, Yisha & Barry.com.

Congratulations Barry and Yisha. Best wishes from your friends (and readers) at StepForth Placement.

What’s in a name?

Lee Roberts makes a shopping cart, content management solution known as ApplePieCart, or more appropriately, he used to. On April 11, 2006, Lee received a note from Apple Computer’s lawyers demanding he stop using a name that might confuse consumers.

Apple Computers, which makes or sells computers, software, music and accessories, uses a red apple with a bite taken out of it as a logo, placing it along side the name of a popular fruit. ApplePieCart, which makes an ecommerce solution aimed at people who already own computers, uses a green apple leaf extending upwards at a 45-degree angle from the name of a popular American dessert item.

At the time of the serving, Apple Computers was embroiled in a trademark case against Apple Records, the record distribution label started by the Beatles. That case was recently settled, and both can use the name Apple without confusing consumers, even though both are technically in the business of music distribution. Apple records, incidentally, uses a green MacIntosh apple as its logo, not to be confused with the Macintosh Apple computer, made by the other Apple, the one that makes computers.

Since he received the letter from Apple Computer’s lawyers, Lee’s life has turned upside down.

He consulted his lawyer who told him he could fight the case for about $500,000 without a guarantee of winning. The other option would be to rename his business. Lee estimated that would cost about $200,000, give or take a small fortune.

He opted for the second choice and has since set out on the long journey of changing his business name from ApplePieCart to MerchantMetrix.

“We’re having to do a new logo and all the identity branding. We need an entire new website. We need to re-polish the software. And then, think about all of the links we have going to our website. All the name recognition, we’re losing that. What would I consider the value of this? I would say in excess of $200K. My attorneys say it will cost me $500K to defend the name, with no guarantee I would win.”

Lee has also stopped advertising his business, citing the confusion the name change and software upgrades will cause new clients. “I had WebProWorld write me to see if I would advertise with them. I haven’t responded yet but I guess they’ll know why I can’t now.” Lee said.

Lee has actually applied for the rights to the name ApplePie Shopping Cart, submitting an application to the US Patent office in June 2005. Last week he received a notice from that office saying the name had been Published for opposition on the second of May, giving “…30 days to notify the US Patent and trademark office of such issue or opposition to the registration of the trademark Applepiecart”.

“I had developed many shopping carts and my wife told me I should make one that was easy to use. She said it should be as easy as making apple pie. After finding out that it takes about 45-minutes to make an apple pie from scratch, we decided that we would call it ApplePie because it was so easy to use.”

Q. “Does it take less than 45-minutes to learn how to use it?”

A. “No, it’s easier than that. It takes about 30-minutes.”

“All of our Video Tutorials have to be redone to”, Lee added, almost as an afterthought.

A group of Canadian recording artists is calling for an end to the RIAA and SOCAN lawsuits against music fans who share digital files. Calling themselves the Canadian Music Creators Coalition (CMCC), many of Canada’s best known musicians have signed on to the petition with more expected to endorse the CMCC’s public statement.

“Until now, a group of multinational record labels has done most of the talking about what Canadian artists need out of copyright. Record companies and music publishers are not our enemies, but let’s be clear: lobbyists for major labels are looking out for their shareholders, and seldom speak for Canadian artists. Legislative proposals that would facilitate lawsuits against our fans or increase the labels’ control over the enjoyment of music are made not in our names, but on behalf of the labels’ foreign parent companies.”

The coalition includes The Barenaked Ladies, Avril Lavinge, Sarah McLachlan, Sum41, Sloan, and many others.

It is sometime close to eight fifteen in the morning when our sales manager, Bill, unlocks the door, fires up his computer, and begins brewing the first of several pots of coffee the staff will soon consume. As the coffee machine sputters and burbles, Bill scans his emails, listens to phone messages and begins his daily hotlist to-dos for clients and resellers. As we work in the Pacific Time zone, communication with the rest of North America is an early morning priority. The East Coast tends to take lunch around the same time those of us out west are ingesting our first cups of java. Read more…

Earlier this week, the board of directors of a well trafficked grassroots online news-source decided to pull Google AdWords from their site. The decision was based on the outrage its members felt over what they perceive to be Google’s collaboration with Chinese Government (PRC) officials to censor or otherwise limit content available through Google China.

It’s easy to understand why a group of social activists have become disenamored with Google over its relationship with the PRC. The details surrounding the numerous issues shared amongst activists are far too broad to mention however most people are familiar with concerns over Tibet, Human Rights and Democracy. Read more…

The search engine, web portal formerly known as America Online has changed its name to that of its acronym, AOL.

“Our company long ago accomplished the mission implied by our old name. We literally got America online,” said Jon Miller, chairman and chief executive of AOL LLC, in an interview with Associated Press.

This is the fourth time the company has changed its name. Formed in 1985 as Quantum Computer Services, it changed its name to America Online Inc. in 1991. Ten years later, it bought the Time Warner media empire and changed its name to AOL Time Warner in 2001. Three months after the purchase, the bottom fell out of the tech market and the name AOL became a liability on the larger corporation. It was later dropped from the Time Warner banner.

Time Warner is making AOL a limited liability company, removing its corporate status, hence the name AOL LLC. Miller added, “Our new corporate identity better reflects our expanded mission – to make everyone’s online experience better.”

Around here, we’re just going to keep calling it AOL.

Having failed miserably to come up with a funny but obvious April Fool’s Day prank to post to the StepForth Blog today, we decided to err towards the informative.

Today’s edition of Wired News opens with the 10 Best Internet Spoofs, as selected by Drew Curtis of Fark.com.

Happy April Fool’s Day friends.

It has been an interesting and rather heady month here at StepForth’s news desk. Several times this month, we had the cursed blessing of realizing the absurd, awesome reach of our column, newsletter and blog.

One story we covered (or miscovered, depending on how one looks at it) led to the delisting of INewswire from Google News. Another, written eighteen months ago, was introduced as Exhibit G in the Motion for Dismissal filed as part of Traffic Power vs. BatteryFuel Suit. Lots of stuff we wrote about Google was quoted and reprinted in literally too many other places to bother trying to keep up with. The weirdest one though, the one even my mother probably wouldn’t believe is that someone at Cambridge University (the one in England) liked an article enough to reprint a hardcopy in their quarterly tech-mag. Read more…