Natural Search Blog

Could Nanotechnology Save Print Yellow Pages?

Technological evolution continues to change our everyday lives, and the speed of changes over the last two decades has caused an acceleration of impacts to traditional forms of business. Nowhere is this more evident than in the impact to usage of printed yellow pages directories. Once the mainstay for locating businesses, many consumers now treat the books as doorstops or fireplace kindling.

The Yellow Pages Association‘s annual report and other research indicates that consumer usage of print directories is on the decline while usage of online yellow pages and local search are increasing. The main divergence of opinion seems to be in how long it will be before print dies completely – ten years, fifty years, or a century? Simba research indicates that profits of core yellow pages are down while independent publishers are increasing at double-digit rates, indicating that advertisers continue to see value in print YP exposure. Even though the print biz still has lots of money and usage, those who have watched tech trends during the Information Age know that transitions of this sort can often reach a tipping point rapidly, perhaps rendering print YP irrelevant at the closer end of the timeline estimates.

In all the rush to sound the death-knell for print most folks are looking upon it as merely a dinosaur, soon to die as a result of the meteor-strike of internet search technology. But, could there be another future in store for print directories?

Nanotech and Yellow Pages

I’ve been watching developments in a number of converging lines of technology for a while now, and I foresee another potential fate for the print directories: nanotechnology. Read on and I’ll explain.


Game of Life Updated

I just noticed that my Chromatic Game of Life utility wasn’t displaying properly for FireFox – my bad! I had added in FireFox support when I built it, but I somehow failed to upload it.


FireFox users would’ve called up the utility and not seen any grid, so it wouldn’t have been apparent that they should click on the squares to set up initial state patterns to iterate through.

This has been corrected, and I also added in very brief instructions to improve usability for those unfamiliar with Conway’s Game of Life. Check it out at the Chromatic Game of Life page.

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The significance of GData

Gdata, short for Google Data APIs, promises to be Google’s new standard protocol for transmitting all sorts of data back and forth to Google and its various services. As Google states on Google Code: “All sorts of services can provide GData feeds, from public services like blog feeds or news syndication feeds to personalized data like email or calendar events or task-list items.” Imagine for instance, starting with a base feed, then adding query parameters like restricting to a particular category and date range and ending up with a customized feed that specifically fits your criteria. Gdata builds on the RSS 2.0 and ATOM 1.0 protocols.

Imagine your desktop machine — armed with your personal profile — communicating with Google (and even with the Web in general) about your email, search history, RSS subscriptions, calendar, bookmarks, blog posts, and the news… and all through the GData protocol. As Reto Meier states, “Google already has a ridiculous amount of my information. Now with an API that promises access to this information to use the way I want to, there’s one less reason to think about storing it anywhere else.” Kinda scary but also exciting at the same time. Google Operating System here we come!

Will we all be speaking GData in years to come? Will the GData protocol become as ubiqitous as the HTTP protocol? Only time will tell, but I certainly think GData is one to watch!

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New Study – Importance of Rankings on Brand points:The “iProspect Search Engine User Behavior Study� also found that 62% of search engine users click on a search result within the first page of results vs. 48% in 2002, and 90% click on a result within the first three pages vs. 81% in 2002.

36% of search engine users associate top rankings with brand leadership

In addition, 88% of users will change engines or search terms if they don’t find what they seek within the first three pages of search results, up from 78% in 2002.


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Google Releases New Related Links Feature

Google Labs has just released a new feature called Google Related Links which allows webmasters to place a little tabbed user-interface navigation box on their site. The box will pull in links to sites related to the content on your webpage, allowing you to display related links to Searches, News, and Web Pages.

I’ve copied a screengrab below so that you can see how the real thing looks:

Google Related Links

Perhaps this is a useful feature for some, but I’m thinking that most web editors prefer to choose their own related links and are better able to choose appropriate ones than this automated option.

So, are there other incentives to adding the code?

Their FAQ states that they do not pay publishers for adding the feature “at this time”. This would seem to hint that they’re considering paying for the referral traffic, which I think that most publishers would agree that they should.

A question: will Google bias the links supplied by this application towards searches which have better pay-for-performance ad revenue for themselves?

There’s something just a hair insidious seeming about this as well, however. On the PR face of it, Google represents that they want to help people out, make life easier, and enable people to find what they want to find on the web. But, Google is integrating itself more and more deeply into people’s websites, increasing dependency upon them. They provide search services for sites already, they’ve launched applications to allow people to design webpages through them, and they’re providing people with free web usage reporting and maps.

If there’s one thing that people have learned within the IT disaster recovery industry, placing too much dependency upon a single entity will create a single point of failure in a system. Admittedly, Google has nice infrastructure, but have you ever seen a company yet that never had a technical failure of some sort? What happens as increasing amounts of the internet itself is supported by Google, rather than by distributed systems?

In any case, it will be interesting to watch how many sites adopt this new feature without monetary incentives to do so.

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Google isn’t going to develop a web browser

In a recent blog entry I referred to The Register’s speculation about Google building a web browser to compete with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Apparently that isn’t going to happen any time soon. This according to Associated Press:

Chief executive Eric Schmidt has, however, ruled out developing a Google browser to compete with Microsoft’s dominant Internet Explorer.

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Google’s index hits 8 billion pages. Yes folks, size does matter.

On Wednesday, the day before Microsoft unveiled the beta of Microsoft Search, Google announced that their index was now over eight billion pages strong. Impeccable timing from the Googleplex. Just a couple days later, and Microsoft could have proudly touted its bigger web page index over Google’s. Still, Microsoft’s 5 billion documents is an impressive feat, particularly for a new search engine just out of the blocks. Google continues to show their market dominance, however, with a database of a whopping 8,058,044,651 web pages. Poor Microsoft, trumped by Google at the last minute!

Why the big deal about index size? From the user’s perspective, a search engine that is comprehensive of the Web in its entirety is going to be more useful than one whose indexation is patchy. Which is why I think the Overture Site Match paid inclusion program from Yahoo! is a really bad idea. Sites shouldn’t pay the search engine to be indexed. Rather, the search engine should strive to index as much of the Web as possible because that makes for a better search engine.

Indeed, I see Google’s announcement as a landmark in the evolution of search engines. Search engine spiders have historically had major problems with “spider traps” — dynamic database-driven websites that serve up identical or nearly identical content at varying URLs (e.g. when there is a session ID in the URL). Alas, search engines couldn’t find their way through this quagmire without severe duplication clogging up their indices. The solution for the search engines was to avoid dynamic sites, to a large degree — or at least to approach them with caution. Over time, however, the sophistication of the spidering and indexing algorithms has improved to the point that search engines (most notably, Google) have been able to successfully index a plethora of previously un-indexed content and minimize the amount of duplication. And thus, the “Invisible Web” begins to shrink. Keep it up, Google and Microsoft!

Idealab unveils a new search engine

Snap, a new search engine from Idealab was unveiled last week at the Web 2.0 conference by the inimitable Bill Gross himself. Snap’s technology is founded on three core principles:

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Google using the largest database of clustering in the world

Peter Norvig, Google’s Director of Search Quality, was quoted as saying at the Web 2.0 conference last week that Google is using the largest database of clustering in the world. Norvig also went on to say that:

the problem with web search is that an entered keyword could be associated with different meanings, but the results displayed may not be the meaning you want. This is why Google is working on the largest bayesian database of clusters to determine the most likely meaning for any given search request.

Read Andy Beal’s account of Norvig’s exclusive demonstration of Google’s clustering technology at Web 2.0.

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A Google web browser? That would be cool.

According to The Register, Google is headhunting staff to build a web browser. Apparently, staff have already been poached from Microsoft and Sun. I, like many others, welcome a Google web browser to displace Microsoft’s Internet Explorer as the dominant browser. Just imagine… a second “browser war,” but this one could actually have a happy ending for us users!

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