And you thought Twitter was just for ‘I’m eating lunch’.

I’ve been a user of twitter since its inception and I’ll admit I didn’t get it at first. I mean, why do I want to waste my time telling anyone where I am or what I’m eating for breakfast? Or reading what they eat for lunch?   I’ve watched Twitter grow up now for sometime and it has seen some massive growth. So, it cant be from everyone telling everyone else such mundane and useless information. There has to be something here that means so much more. And there is.

Back in the days when I first jumped aboard the web, prior to the first dot.com meltdown, you had Netscape (R.I.P). I used NS as a place or ‘portal’ as they called it to find out the weather, news, events, movies and other things that was scattered throughout the internet. Actually before NS, I used BBS boards. Useful, but a bit boring and graphically plain and in 1 or two colors, its was sloooow to use and a terrible user experience. But then again, that’s all there was until NS appeared.  (Can you say 28k and 56k baud squelching modems)?  And then AOL and Yahoo came along which was a step up from NS. It started collecting ‘links’ for us.

Our browser (netscape) allowed us to bookmark our favorite places so we didn’t forget them. I used to have way too many. And then really simple syndication showed up (RSS) and that was pretty awesome. Sites created an RSS ‘feed’ which was a link of sorts. We then had RSS ‘readers’ and presto, web sites and readers could ‘feed’ us what they updated without us going back to the site to load it up every hour or two. A syndication of information of sorts, quite useful and all of a sudden EVERYONE has an RSS feed.   Then we had ‘shared’ bookmarks. The concept of shared online bookmarks dates back to April 1996 with the launch of itList. Within the next three years, online bookmark services became competitive, with venture-backed companies such as Backflip, Blink, Clip2, ClickMarks, HotLinks, and others entering the market. Then Delicious in 2006 along with reddit, newsvine and dig showed up. All of these allowed us to share what we thought was cool and interesting that we found on the web.  Collaborative tagging so-to-speak.

And then came Twitter. I found that the best way to use Twitter is to consume and drink from twitter and not to necessarily feel so inclined to ‘tweet’ incessantly. With my RSS reader, I have to launch it and peel through (and find) the feeds ‘I’ have chosen to read. With twitter, if I follow people who are smarter than I am, they find things that they ‘tweet’ about and ‘tweet’ them out. Even the ‘re-tweeting’ of things becomes a beacon and new river of new information for me to see and learn from. Think about it –  using smarter people and friends to find cool things to discover and read about on the net in just a short 140 character ‘tweet’. No long story to read, a quick blurb and a link. If I think it may be interesting, I’ll read it. Sometimes I don’t even need to read the article – its encapsulated enough in a tweet. And, yes I get to see what is most obvious about twitter delivered to my mobile or ipad, which is the current trends and events that happen somewhere on the planet which CNN and ABC never get to first anymore. Its usually someone with a mobile phone who ‘tweets’ it. (Think the jet in the Hudson river in NYC).

Yes Twitter can be used as a marketing tool and is all the time – sometime too much so. Twitter’s usefulness as a ‘free’ loudspeaker or podium for their services /software/business can work against people more often than not as its abused so much so that way. But as a way to consume snippets of information from around the planet for even short periods of time from people who are experts at one thing or another that you are NOT an expert at, is pure serendipity. There’s no other tool like it today.

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What’s really behind Microsoft’s proposed takeover of Yahoo?

A long time ago, in another galaxy far, far away (1997), before there was a popular engine named ‘Google’ there was a search engine called GoTo.com. gotologo1.gif GoTo was one of the dot-com’s that idealab! idealab_logo.gif started in the early days of the internet, pre-March 2002 meltdown. GoTo occupied office space right next to the lab where I was working at the time, in young and fashionable downtown Pasadena. A lot of people scoffed at Bill Gross’ notion of using a bidding mechanism for advertisers within a web search engine when you entered a search term. The notion that you could ‘buy’ your ad placement to be displayed when users searched for something was totally out of line with the norm of the time. AltaVista, Lycos, and the other big search engines that dominated the landscape then did NOT use this new-fangled algorithm that GoTo adopted to allow what amounted to a virtual bidding war in a cloud for the top spot where your ad was seen when you searched for ANYTHING. GoTo basically did a ‘branding’ act for its first year. Didn’t really have too many advertisers and no one really looked at what they were doing seriously. Then, to increase its mass, it landed a deal with then search giant database Inktomi in June of 1998. Now when a user searched for something, many more listings would appear and many more paid listing could appear as well. In the summer of 1999, they offered an online set of tools for advertisers. These tools allowed advertisers access to keyword bidding and basically was a switch from a system that required reps to sell space to a self-serve model online (sounds a lot like Google huh?). In 1999, GoTo went public and later that year changed its name to ‘Overture’ overturelogo.gif . The rest you can probably guess. In 2003, Yahoo bought Overture for $2.2 billion. Then, Overture bought AltaVista, AllThe Web and FAST adding to its number of pages crawled or searched. Yahoo/Overture and Google now had the lions share of the search business. And that’s the way its been. Unless the Microsoft deal goes through. You can see that combining MSN Search with Yahoo/Overture (Yahoo Search Marketing) would vault MS to second place in the search biz and puts the combined entity a lot closer to Google’s share of the search market quicker than nif they tried to grow thier share over time online. Here are some stats from ComScore just last November:

November U.S. Core Search Rankings

In November, Google Sites share of core searches stood at 58.6 percent, virtually the same level as in October. Yahoo! Sites ranked second with 22.4 percent, followed by Microsoft Sites (9.8 percent), Ask Network (4.6 percent) and Time Warner Network (4.5 percent), which had the largest share point gain during the month (up 0.3 points).

comScore Core Search Report*
November 2007
Total U.S. – Home/Work/University Locations
Source: comScore qSearch 2.0

 
 
 
 

Core Search Entity

Share of Searches (%)

 

Oct-07

Nov-07

Point Change Novt-07 vs. Oct-07

 

Total Core Search

100.0%

100.0%

0.0

 

Google Sites

58.4%

58.6%

0.2

 

Yahoo! Sites

22.8%

22.4%

-0.4

 

Microsoft Sites

9.8%

9.8%

0.0

 

Ask Network

4.7%

4.6%

-0.1

 

Time Warner Network

4.2%

4.5%

0.3

 

* Based on the five major search engines including partner searches and cross-channel searches. Searches for mapping, local directory, and user-generated video sites that are not on the core domain of the five search engines are not included in the core search numbers.

That’s the golden fleece that MS wants from the Yahoo deal. Sure, part of it is the traffic, but the real crown jewel is paid search. Bill Gross got the last laugh. Congrats Bill!

(logo courtesy of AdAge)  mycrosoft-logo020108.jpg