Google Becomes a Teenager

Sept 4, 1998

Alta Vista reigns supreme as a search engine. Yahoo dominates the directory world. AOL appears impregnable, and is still two years away from a valuation of $166 Billion dollars at the Time-Warner merger date. IBM releases a laptop with a 300 Mhz processor and a 4GB hard drive. A fast Internet connection runs at 56kbps, and 2 math geeks from Stanford file papers to incorporate Google Inc.

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The Medium is the Message

As a teenager, I first encountered the writings of Marshal McLuhan. His books took me on an adventure…, imagining that society was formed by its mediums of expression. People didn’t use a typewriter, they were typed. Like Joyce in Ulysses, he invented a new language to address the phenomena. Some of his language is mainstream today, although no one seems to remember where “The Global Village”, and “information surfing” came from.

McLuhan was a Canadian Professor of English Literature and communications theorist whose ideas about media and communication were innovative and controversial. A core premise was that our technology was both means and molder of communication, and accordingly shaped our culture. The content of a medium is less important that the medium itself. It is the medium that shapes us. Geronimo may have “heard” his world…, but literate man “saw” the world because typography shaped his world perception and cognition. Henry Ford could only exist because of Gutenberg.

In 1962, McLuhan wrote that “The next medium, whatever it is – it may be the extension of consciousness – will include television as its content, not as its environment, and will transform television into an art form. A computer as a research and communication instrument could enhance retrieval, obsolesce mass library organization, retrieve the individual’s encyclopedic function and flip into a private line to speedily tailored data of a saleable kind”. Sounds a little bit like the world web doesn’t it?

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Grasping Simple Concepts

For a couple of years now, we have been harping on the obvious efforts of search engines to improve their results. Our advice can be summed up as “build a good website”. With literally trillions of unique URL’s on the web, search engines face daily challenges in trying to sort the wheat from the chaff. For a long time after the introduction of Google, the mantra was “more links”. Links still matter of course, but what really matters is quality.

In the first 48 hours after this blog entry launches, a series of robots will try to post comment links to a variety of pharmaceutical sites, and free download sites. None of these comment links will be posted here, but you can be assured that the only reason comment spam exists is because large numbers of links get generated that way. The inbound link model only makes sense if one measures the credibility of where the link comes from. Google knows this.

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Belly Button Gazing and Cookie Lint

Every morning, I spend roughly an hour surfing the web…, looking for trends, interesting stories, and cultural moments. I see it as a key part of my job to be completely current on social trends and phenomena. Some of the major sites that are a part of each day are CNN, MSNBC, The Star, The Globe, BBC, AOL, MSN, Aljazeera, Economist, NYT, and RT. The links I follow will routinely take me to hard news, philosophy, politics, entertainment sites, gossip sites, and in many cases…, absolute time-wasters. So why don’t I restrict my viewing to professional information and topics of interest by using news feeds?

Consider what the Internet is hiding from you.

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