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Wednesday, January 21st, 2004

MSN/Yahoo Shift to Inktomi

For a short time last week, both MSN and Yahoo were displaying results drawn from Inktomi. MSN continues to use results directly from the Inktomi database but it appears that Yahoo has reverted back to results from Google, for the time being. Last Thursday (Jan. 15), MSN dropped results from LookSmart and went pure Inktomi. Yahoo, on the other hand, has announced that by the end of March, they too will have switched over completely from Google to Inktomi generated results. In the meantime, Yahoo seems to be experimenting with results from Inktomi by bleeding them in at different times and in different locations.

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Wednesday, January 21st, 2004

Google Email – Google going portal

Google Going Portal? That’s how it looks from the outside as Google announced it is thinking about introducing a Google Email feature along the lines of Yahoo, MSN and Lycos. Google has taken the concept a step further however and will likely use the new offering as a delivery vehicle for paid advertisements. This move might disappoint long-term Google users who have become accustomed to the clean interface that characterizes Google for many. Given the battle between Google, MSN and Yahoo however, it should come as no surprise that Google is looking to ensure brand-loyalty from its users.

It is obvious the holidays are long over. While it is only the beginning of the third week of 2004, the ongoing battle between Google and Yahoo has heated up and is the most interesting subject in the search industry. Rumours about Google and Yahoo are abundant in the tech section of newspapers, in IT newsletters (the better ones anyway), daily articles and discussion forums. Behind those rumours stand literally tens of millions of hard-working people desperate to know which directions the industry will be going in over the next twelve months. Nobody wants another Christmas surprise like the one delivered by Google in 2003 and, given the sudden perception of volatility in the industry and the overall economy, nobody wants to make poor bets with their limited marketing budgets. As the gathering of as much information as possible allows advertisers, consumers and small businesses to make relativity informed decisions, it is in everyone’s best interests to share as much information as possible. The search engine world went through monumental changes last year and looks as if it will go through even more this year. With 2004 being labeled the “year of search”, a quick look at some of the anticipated changes is in order. Read more…

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Thursday, January 15th, 2004

Yahoo! YellowPages

Yahoo! has begun an intense advertising campaign for its newest service, Yahoo! YellowPages. Companies can list their business contact information on this new feature at a fraction of the cost of a traditional print Yellow Pages listing. The folks at Yahoo! believe they have a sure bet on their hands and they are likely correct. A quick poll in the StepForth office shows that 100% of the staff turn to the Internet before pulling out the phone directory when looking for local services and delivery food, likely because it is easier to find a computer in most of our homes then it is to find the phone book.

2003 was a watershed year in the search engine industry. Not only was it the year of mergers and acquisitions, it was also the year that the media, business and financial sectors really took notice. It was a very busy year for the SEO sector as well, perhaps marking the maturity of the optimization industry. With so much action and so many changes, one almost required a scorecard to keep up. By the end of 2003 the search world looked remarkably different than it did at the beginning. Some firms were big winners while others were huge losers. Here’s our list to kick off the new year. Read more…

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Wednesday, January 7th, 2004

YAHOO!'S NEW DIRECTIONS

Yahoo! CEO Terry Semel had a lot to celebrate this new year and he appears to be happy to talk about it. On Monday, at the Smith Barney Citigroup Entertainment, Media and Telecommunications Conference in Phoenix, Semel spoke of the new directions he anticipates Yahoo! taking in 2004. The biggest change for Yahoo! will be a switch in where search results are drawn from. Currently, Yahoo! receives results from Google. Sometime this year Yahoo! will (99% likely) begin drawing results from their in house search database, Inktomi. Semel also noted Yahoo!’s rapid growth over the past two years with the introduction of paid services such as Yahoo! shopping sites and music distribution. Yahoo! now boasts over 5Million paying users, up from zero two years ago. A large portion of these paying users come from the partnership between Yahoo! and SBC Communications to bundle Yahoo content into SBC’s DSL subscriptions. Yahoo! is currently the front runner in the search engine business war and has been brilliantly placed to take advantage of the emerging trends of contextual advertising and the rapid growth of e-commerce.

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Wednesday, January 7th, 2004

END OF FREE LISTINGS?

With Yahoo!’s pending switch from Google (free-listings) to Inktomi (paid-inclusion), website owners with high Google rankings will see the number of visits to their sites drop dramatically as Yahoo! drives about 30 – 35% of all search traffic. Inktomi is also the primary supplier of results for MSN, the third largest search tool. We are predicting that the bulk of search traffic will come from the Inktomi database, starting sometime around March or April. This likely spells the demise of free-inclusion as Inktomi’s popularity will increase and Google will need to plug a sudden and likely massive revenue hole. While Google has traditionally spurned paid-inclusion, Yahoo!’s adoption of Inktomi results and the pressures stemming from going public through the anticipated IPO might move Google’s management towards the paid-inclusion spectrum.

Yahoo seems to be ratcheting out Inktomi results along with their standard Google results. We believe Yahoo will be moving towards Inktomi in the near future.

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Thursday, December 18th, 2003

Europe – Pay Direct w/Yahoo

Lots of folks send money home at Christmas and Yahoo has introduced a service for people with friends or family in Europe. Pay-Direct International allows people to withdraw a specified amount of cash from one the 800,000 (or so) Cirrus ATM machines networked around the world. The service is available in English at www.paydirect.yahoo.com or Spanish through www.espanol.yahoo.com.

Happy Thanksgiving to our friends in the United States. American Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the end of the previous year and the start of the holiday season. It is the perfect time to kick back, visit family and friends and reminisce about the year gone past. It is also a great time to look forward to the coming year and have a little fun. That’s what our staff wanted to do today so here is our predictions for the State of Search, 2004.

* Google will issue an IPO in March (odds = 99%) via the Dutch Auction format. (odds = 50%) Google will make billions on the IPO and will purchase the financially strapped Calgary Flames Hockey club, move them to the Silicone Valley and rename them the Silicone Flameouts. (odds = 5%)

* We will see a continuance of large mergers, takeovers and buyouts until the end of the first quarter of 2004. More of the smaller players will be absorbed by the larger ones including at least a portion of ASK.Com. (odds = 60%). Jeeves himself will be found drunk in an alley behind the Stardust Lounge on Rodeo Dr. slumped over his friend, that other unemployed mascot from Pets.Com (odds = 5%)

* Yahoo will become the dominant search service in China (odds = 85%) and will become known as the “Portal to the World’s Largest Marketplace” (odds = 65%)

* Terra Lycos will surprise the search world with successful innovations and services. (odds = 99%) Furthermore, Lycos will become one of the top international search tools with a strong focus on European and Spanish Language search technologies. (odds = 55%)

* Contextual Advertising opportunities will expand, allowing more opportunities for the advertiser to become the advertising medium for other ads. (odds = 85%)

* Asian language SEOs will be a driving force of the SEO industry as the focus of the international economy continues to move from North America to Asia. (odds = 75%)

* The Toronto Maple Leafs will finally win the Stanley Cup. (odds = .05%)

* Google will be officially labeled a weapon of mass destruction based on the recent Florida update. (odds = 99%)

* Non-Spammy results will be found at Google very soon. (odds = 10%)

* Every major search engine will introduce their own tool-bars. (odds = 90%)

* MSN will make a major purchase, possibly ASK.Com’s TEOMA (odds = 50%)

* StepForth Placement will expand to double it’s current size and staff (odds = 80%+)

* StepForth Placement will add a new division (details pending, odds = 100%)