MSN Allowing Webmasters to Opt Out of ODP Descriptions

For some time now, search engines like Google, Yahoo, and MSN have been using ODP (Dmoz) descriptions for search engine results descriptions. These descriptions are supplied by human editors overseeing the ODP. Although usually relevant and valuable, these descriptions at times are outdated, unrelated, and even incorrect.

Webmasters have been asking for a way to opt out of these ODP search engine results descriptions and MSN is the first engine to offer a solution.

So what we did was introduce a new option at the page level – a robots meta tag – that tells the MSN search bot not to use the DMOZ site snippet. This is something that only can be done at Web page level, by a webmaster, and is not done as part of the robot.txt file.

So in your Web page you’d put

<META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOODP”>

or

<META NAME=”msnbot” CONTENT=”NOODP”>

Once MSN’s crawler revisits your page, you should see the changes reflected in the search results.

So far MSN is the only engine to recognize the tag, but hopefully the other engines will follow MSN’s example.

Quick Google Update

Just a short Google update since there is better coverage over at SEW/SE Roundtable.

During Google’s Press Day yesterday, Google announced the release of four new products:

Google Co-op is a way for users to help us improve search. It lets people and organizations label web pages and create specialized links related to their unique expertise. Whether it’s information about a hobby, a profession, or an unusual interest, everyone can contribute to making Google search more relevant and useful for the entire community.

Google Desktop 4 gives you another way to improve search, by personalizing your desktop. New “Google Gadgets” deliver an array of information–ranging from games and media players to weather updates and news–straight to your desktop.

Google Notebook (which we’ll be launching next week) is a personal browser tool that lets you clip text, images, and links from the pages you’re searching, save clippings to an online notebook, and then share notebooks with others.

Google Trends builds on the idea behind the Google Zeitgeist, allowing you to sort through several years of Google search queries from around the world to get a general idea of everything from user preferences on ice-cream flavors to the relative popularity of politicians in their respective cities or countries.

I’ll be taking a look at Google Co-op and posting more information about it in the future.

Livesearch on AlltheWeb

Yahoo just launched a new feature called “Livesearch” on AlltheWeb.

Livesearch is a combination of Google Suggest, Related Searches, and Instant Search. With some slick use of AJAX to make searching faster, Livesearch aims to speed up search time.

Yahoo plans to introduce new search features over at AlltheWeb in the future:

AlltheWeb is a search destination that has its roots as a showcase of new and innovative technology – for example AlltheWeb was the first site to roll out the calculator functionality within the search box. The site will remain true to its roots as we continue to introduce new technologies there in the future.

Google Crys Anti-Trust Over IE7

From Wired:

Google has informally complained to U.S. and European antitrust regulators about what it says are biased settings on Microsoft’s latest web browser, marking the latest spat between two companies whose business models are increasingly bumping up against one another.

Here’s the feature that Google is complaining about:

The next version of Internet Explorer, available now in test form, includes a box in the corner that lets people perform an internet search without going to a separate web page, much like what’s available from Google’s downloadable “toolbar.” Users who download IE 7 will be assigned a search engine preference based on the AutoSearch function from the previous version of IE, which is likely to be MSN Search.

Funny isn’t that the same feature as Firefox? Except with Google as the default search engine?

Yahoo Travel, Trip Planner, and Travel Web Services

Yahoo combines Web 2.0 style communities, Travel search and Web Services to create one cool travel planning experience.

Now when you search for travel related terms on Yahoo, you’ll be served one box result that taps into Yahoo’s FareChase.

Yahoo! FareChase (which is now in general availability) is a travel search engine that searches across many airline sites like AA.com, hotel sites like Sheraton.com, and on-line travel agency websites such as Orbitz.com and Cheaptickets.com, to give searchers a comprehensive set of prices and availability for flights and hotel rooms that is available on the web.

FareChase resembles offerings from similar services like Kayak but does not poll as many sources. Here’s a list of some of the travel sites that FareChase searches. Compare that to Kayak’s airline and travel lists.

My favorite part of Yahoo’s new service is the community integration – Yahoo Trip Planner. Take a look at some of the features – very Web 2.0. You can share your trip, create a trip profile, receive comments on your trip, add maps, combine guides, rate trips, add photos, add a journal, and more. Tons of stuff that you will be better off playing with.

Trip Planner is a tool on Yahoo! Travel that lets you save hotels, attractions, restaurants, maps and more to a customized travel guide. You can add travel dates, your own comments, even bookmarks for other sites to your trip. Once you’ve created your trip, you can print a copy to bring with you, or access it from any computer with Internet access.

More about Trip Planner at the FAQ.

This will open different advertising opportunities as search engines continue to develop rich interfaces to aggregate information. Google has already started to experiment with Google Map advertising and Yahoo is sure to follow. Yahoo has the tools to combine their search services with community building experience and this is another product showing the collective effect of both.

Even more exciting is the release of Yahoo APIs for the new services. You can use the APIs to search for public trips by keyword or place a FareChase box on your site. By combining user generated content (trip guides and plans) with search, Yahoo is doing what other search engines aren’t – smart search with community input. This type of search is a review based search and I can see this extending to Yahoo’s already huge base of content and reviews. I bet we see similar things coming for movies, shopping, real estate, music, etc. Product data combined with user reviews will be huge.

Sidenote: I’d like to see something like this for blog comments. (Not coComment)

Searching Google with Your Voice

From ArsTechnica:

Patent #7,027,987 issued today by the US Patent and Trademark Office covers a “Voice interface for a search engine,”…Translation: the system listens to your spoken query, does its magic, and returns the results.

Google has not publicly commented on this voice search effort, although the company’s Alexander Franz did co-author a an article on the topic back in 2002 (PDF). Nevertheless, it is clear that this service would be ideal for users of Google’s mobile search. In fact, voice recognition could possibly power Google’s mobile search right into competition with local 411 services.

With voice recognition, Google would control the mobile search space if Yahoo does not work fast to offer the same service. Voice recognition technology could later be extended to podcasting and audio search.

Tieing in all of Google’s search services with a mobile interface (cellphones) would allow users to tap into the power of search at all times. Combined with Google’s eventual entry into the personal data storing space (personal files, not just email/blogs), this technology could allow users to access all their data at anytime and anywhere with a simple voice command.

Yahoo Toolbar Adds del.icio.us

Yahoo just released an updated version of their toolbar.

For IE: Tabbed Browsing.
For Firefox: Bookmarks, Mail Alerts, and Anti Spy.

And the big change:

Speaking of changes, you must have heard about del.icio.us by now! People use del.icio.us ito save and share web favorites. We’ve just created a del.icio.us button for our US users. You add it to your IE or Firefox toolbar to get easy access to your del.icio.us account from anywhere on the web. If you already have toolbar installed, you can add it with a click, otherwise, find it on the Add/Edit Buttons page in the “Personal Tools” section.

Virtual Earth Does Drive Bys

No not that kind of drive by – this kind of drive by.

The MSN Virtual Earth team loaded up a van with 10 cameras and photographed street level images for San Francisco and Seattle. You can preview the street level navigation right now. The images are decent quality and there are different types of layouts available (check out the “Street” view of the map). The controls are a bit awkward and the application isn’t quite smooth as Google Maps or Yahoo Maps, but street level images are obviously the next step in all these map applications. Your location is represented by a mini car on the road. (Hold shift and use arrow keys to move your car around)

If you have about 30 minutes to spare, you can watch the Virtual Earth StreetLevel video over at Channel 9.

Read MSN Search’s announcement then check outwhat people are saying about the preview on Scoble’s blog.

Gmail Gtalk Chat

Looks like Chat for Gmail is being updated and for some reason I’m only seeing Gtalk for Gmail on Internet Explorer. Any firefox users seeing the new interface? (Popups on hover over contacts)

Chat with your friends from right inside Gmail. There’s no need to load a separate program or look up new addresses. It’s just one click to chat with the people you already email, as well as anyone on the Google Talk network. And now you can even save and search for chats in your Gmail account.

We’ve started rolling this out to all Gmail accounts, so yours should have it soon. It’s good to chat. Learn more

Contextual Search Y!Q Paper

One of the papers released to the past Conference on Information and Knowledge Management was Y!Q: Contextual Search at the Point of Inspiration by Reiner Kraft, Farzin Maghoul, Chi Chao Chang from Yahoo (8 pages, PDF).

From the abstract:

This paper presents Y!Q—a first of its kind large-scale contextual search system—and provides an overview of its system design and architecture. Y!Q solves two major problems. First, how to capture high quality search context. Second, how to use that context in a way to improve the relevancy of search queries.

The paper is a real interesting read – especially the sections describing how Y!Q determines context. Everything is pretty high level so no juicy details on how Y!Q specifically works, but a good read anyways.

FON, Google, Skype and Why It Matters

Yesterday, FON announced that Google, Skype, Sequoia Capital and Index Ventures will be backing them with 18 million Euros.

FON is company that has one purpose – wifi for everyone. Basically you download some software, install it into your router, and start sharing your bandwidth. You can read more about how FON works and the company’s business model here.

Now why does that matter? Sure free wifi is great, but why are companies like Google and Skype investing in FON?

First lets talk about Skype.

Skype has been slowly introducing products focused beyond the desktop. Recently Skype announced that soon you’ll be able to use Skype on wifi phones. Combine the Skype wifi phone with the FON network and you have a phone that can work anywhere (assuming the FON network spreads globally) – similar to cell phones but on the current internet broadband network.

So instead of having to sign up with a cell phone provider, you could use your current Skype username with a Skype phone and use that phone to talk anywhere – seamless transfer between your online contacts and your offline contacts using one product.

What about Google?

Similar to Google’s relationship with Mozilla, this represents a chance to get in at the beginning with FON. Google can place their services at every point inside the FON network – the portal that pops up when people log in, the default search engine for FON users, the default mobile search for Skype+FON users, etc. If FON spreads globally and Google is the default for FON users, this represents an easy way for Google to secure users.

Right now, cell phone users have to pay a premium for data usage (browsing /text messaging). With a wifi based phone, I can see data usage becoming much more widespread which would help mobile applications like Google mobile /Google local.

This could be the start of something real big.

Google Code Jam 2005

Registration for Google Code Jam 2005 is now available at TopCoder.

So if you are an amazing Java, C++, C#, or VB programmer – head over there and register. Prizes range from $750 to $10,000.

The competition consists of two main phases: coding and breaking.

Participants are given three problems in which they are to code solutions for in the fastest amount of time possible. Following the coding phase, participants try and break other competitors code during the competition phase.

Inside Google Firefox Extensions

With the release of several Firefox extensions by Google – we can take a look at how Google officially implements PageRank queries.

Firefox extensions are packaged files. Download the extension file and unzip it, you’ll notice there are several directories. The location of source files will vary from extension to extension, so you’ll have to surf around for a bit.

For example, download the Google toolbar file (google-toolbar.xpi). Now unzip it. You’ll see a directory structure like this:

Inside the chrome directory, there is a file name google-toolbar.jar – unzip it. Now you’ll see a directory called google-toolbar. Inside this directory, you’ll see a couple more directories – go into the content directory.

Now you’ll see a ton of javascript files. You’ll notice a couple interesting ones: autofill.js, autolink.js, spellcheck.js.

But the one we really care about is pagerank.js. That’s right pagerank.js! Google’s official code for PageRank queries. I’ll leave it up to you to read through the code, but remember that mining pagerank is against Google’s terms of service, so be careful how you use it.

You might want to take a look at the Google Suggest code too – real interesting.