May 28, 2009
Microsoft’s new search engine Bing excels at finding a good restaurant. Unlike Google, which generally returns links to mere web sites, Bing crawls listings at review services like Yelp.com and CitySearch. It then summarizes the results and displays a scorecard for each, rating things like service, drinks, food, wait time, lunch offerings, and so on, all laid out in a neat comparative table.
What it means: we still don’t have a lot of information about Bing, the new search engine from Microsoft that was unveiled today to the press (and will be available to the general public on June 3rd) but I found that this was an interesting nugget of info. You can see some screenshots in the Wired.com article. Expect this feature to be copied by Google and become a key element inside Yellow Pages websites.
Microsoft has used attack ads to go after Apple, and now it has Google in its sights. The software giant is set to launch an $80 million to $100 million campaign for Bing, the search engine it hopes will help it grab a bigger slice of the online ad market. (…)
People with knowledge of the planned push said the ads won’t go after Google, or Yahoo for that matter, by name. Instead, they’ll focus on planting the idea that today’s search engines don’t work as well as consumers previously thought by asking them whether search (aka Google) really solves their problems. That, Microsoft is hoping, will give consumers a reason to consider switching search engines, which, of course, is one of Bing’s biggest challenges.
“If you grab the average user off the street and ask them, ‘Does search suck?’ I think they’d say no. They don’t know what else can be done,” said Shashi Seth, a former Google executive who is now chief revenue officer at Cooliris. “They think search does a pretty good job, and if you could prove otherwise with a product that’s differentiated, people will sit up and take notice.”
Indeed, data show that about 65% of people are satisfied or very satisfied with online search. But Microsoft sees an opening on its own proprietary search data: 42% of searches require refinement, and 25% of clicks are the back button.
What it means: Microsoft is planning a big ad push for their new search engine Bing (I’ve seen it called Kumo elsewhere) and they’re hoping they can get people to re-think the way they search the Web. As the search world reaches parity in terms of result relevancy, Microsoft thinks it can make a dent in Google’s hegemony. This advertising effort from Microsoft reminds me of the Pepsi Challenge. As we remember, the second place cola manufacturer was quite succesful in the 80′s at convincing people that Pepsi tasted better than Coke (the dominant brand) through blind test situations. They gained market shares against Coke. I’m curious to see how succesful Microsoft will be with this strategy but it seems to make sense.
Update: it will be certainly called Bing. You can see the future logo here.
March 16, 2009
According to CTV’s Chris Abel, CanPages.ca, the local search site of [praized subtype="small" pid="58d245fd7e8f20800dee0ecd3af21f08" type="badge" dynamic="true"], the independent Canadian directory publisher, has launched its own Street View feature. CanPages has partnered with San Francisco-based MapJack to deploy this technology in Canada. Abel says it’s very similar to Google Street View but includes new features such as ”a fullscreen mode and paths that explore pedestrian walkways as much as they do the streets ruled by cars and trucks.”
You can see it in searches in Vancouver, Whistler, or Squamish (all in British Columbia). As for future expansion, “the company plans to expand to include Street Views of Toronto and Montreal next, followed by as much of Canada as possible.”
In the last few days, an ad for a video camera operator has appeared in a Quebec job site, making people think Google was going to capture Quebec City in Street View. It’s possible but I suspect it might be an ad for the first French Canadian street view deployment of CanPages.ca.
What it means: looking at the introduction of new features inside the CanPages.ca site in the last 6-12 months, it’s clear that the exec team there has identified feature gaps inside YellowPages.ca, the main property of Yellow Pages Group (and directory incumbent in Canada) and are trying to differentiate themselves via those new features. It’s a good strategic move. On the other side, YPG has a mapping agreement with Microsoft and I’m fairly certain the Redmond giant is also taking street view pictures (many people on Twitter have reported seeing the Microsoft vehicle taking pictures). This will certainly be easy for YPG to deploy once it’s available in Canada. As I reported a few weeks ago, the new DexKnows.com has a nice integration of Google Maps and Street View.
January 7, 2009
Back in December, Valleywag and Silicon Valley Insider tried to estimate the current valuation of Facebook by calculating the price at which employee shares are transacting on closed markets. Valleywag wondered if Facebook was only worth $1.3B while Insider said it might be worth around $2B, thereby facing the prospect of a down round in their next financing round. As we all remember, Microsoft had invested a $240M in Facebook for a 1.6% stake in the company in October 2007, valuing the company at $15B.
I don’t buy it. Not Valleywag or Insider’s calculations of Facebook’s current valuation. I don’t buy the fact that Microsoft thought Facebook was once worth $15B (even though their press release says so).
Let’s review what I think happened. In October 2007, Microsoft announced that they had taken a 1.6% stake in the company. The Wall Street Journal wrote at the time: “Facebook sells ads on its own and also struck a deal last year that allows Microsoft to broker display ads on Facebook’s U.S. site until 2011. (…) As part of yesterday’s agreement, which lasts through 2011, Microsoft will sell advertisements on international versions of the Facebook service”. The press release adds “Microsoft will be the exclusive third-party advertising platform partner for Facebook” Interesting. An exclusive search/contextual/banner ad deal is part of the agreement.
Go back one more year, in 2006. Fox Interactive Media announced in August 2006 that they had ”entered into a nearly $1 billion, 3+ year deal with Google to exclusively power search across most Fox online sites, including Myspace.” That deal had minimum revenue guarantees for Fox. If I remember correctly, Microsoft had bid for that business and lost it.
Go back further, in December 2005. Google and AOL announced the expansion of their strategic partnership through a $1B investment from Google in AOL (for a 5% stake). Microsoft had previously lost that one as well.
With a fledgling search advertising business and a recently acquired ad network/ad technology (through the purchase of aQuantive in May 2007), Microsoft needed strategically to have at least one sexy partner. When Facebook exploded into the scene, they had found the deal they needed to absolutely make. I remain convinced today that the partnership business case was mostly built on the ad deal, which allowed Microsoft to claim Facebook as a partner, offer more inventory in their ad network and keep Google at bay. The small investment made sure the Facebook’s exec team remained aligned with that goal. Facebook must have made the request to include the valuation in the press release and Microsoft obliged. In a sense, this really worked for Facebook given that the Microsoft deal might have helped them strike two subsequent consecutive funding deals (for a total of $100M) with Li Ka-shing in November 2007 and March 2008.
In conclusion, Facebook raised (hopefully) enough money ($340M!) for a good runway and Microsoft got the strategic partner they needed while shutting off Google. But I don’t think Microsoft ever really thought Facebook was worth $15B.
May 27, 2008
What it means: Google was rumored to be buying Yell all of last year but I did not think there was a strong possibility of that happening. I think that Microsoft rumor makes more sense as Microsoft has clearly invested massively in the local search space in the last 12 months through tech acquisitions (notably Fast and TellMe). This might be the way to try to corner the local search market vis-a-vis Google.
On the second day of the Kelsey Drilling Down 2008 Conference, we heard from Rich Barton, Chairman and CEO, Zillow. He exposed us to his thesis that lead to the various projects he’s been involved in in the last 10 years. Before founding Zillow, Barton founded Expedia when he was at Microsoft. His basic thesis is that transparency of information is power. This leads to a consumer revolution in various verticals, releasing things that were locked-up, especially around big financial decisions. He mentioned stockbroking, travel and real estate as three verticals that were forever altered by the arrival of the Web. He also mentioned three other companies he’s involved with in the following verticals: Legal (Avvo.com), Healthcare (Realself.com), and Employment (Glassdoor.com).
He finished his presentation with a “Power to the people” manifesto that’s very telling in this user-generated content age:
- Consumer crave information and power
- If it can be known, it will be known by all (the web causes transparency)
- If it can be rated, it will be rated
- If it can be free, it will be free
- Professionals who are active players in the new vertical marketplaces win
- There can be no vertical marketplace without community
- The digital media model rules (local is giant)