Enter BingTweets and Suddenly Bing is More Useful Than Google…

Bing  was the first of the big search engines to integrate Twitter  into results, albeit, not in the most exciting of implementations. Today, Microsoft’s fledgling search tool is doing a bit more with Twitter, launching BingTweets, a separate site that combines Bing search with Twitter search and trending topics.

via BingTweets: Bing + Twitter Search Results Side-by-Side.

What it means: as I discussed in my “I have seen the future of local media“, integration of real-time search with regular search creates an environment that provides much better search results to consumers. This is a smart move by Bing to differentiate themselves, although I would have integrated real-time results directly in Bing and I would have also integrated other sources than Twitter.

Update: the Bing team explains the project. I love the example they’re giving as it is very time sensitive: “For example, when Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince comes out tomorrow, you may want to scan the official reviews, local theater listing, AND the latest Tweets on the movie to help you decide whether to rush to see it. With BingTweets, you can cover all that ground in one place.”

Microsoft’s Bing Does Restaurant Meta-Reviews

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.

via Microsoft’s Bing Hides Its Best Features | Epicenter | Wired.com.

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 Goes Pepsi Challenge against Google: Will it Work?

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.

via Microsoft Aims Search Guns at Google With Bing – Advertising Age – Digital.

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.

CanPages.ca Introduces Its Own Street View Feature

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.”

Vancouver Street View Canpages

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.

Facebook Was Never Worth $15 Billion

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.

A Look Back At 2008's Most Important News and Trends in Local Search and Social Media

As the year ends, here are, in my humble opinion, the most important news and trends of the year in local search and social media (in no specific order):

  • The major challenges of the newspaper industry. Declining print readership, challenges with monetizing the Web, user fragmentation, lay-offs, stock value decline, etc. 2008 was a very difficult year for the newspaper industry and I don’t think 2009 will be easier with the slowdown in ad spending.
  • Mobile, iPhone & the app store. The launch of the iPhone 3G and the arrival of new “iPhone-killers” devices signaled the beginning of a real tipping point in mobile local search and social media usage. The launch of the iPhone app store also created a new ecosystem leveraging the iPhone’s installed base. At the end of 2008, building an iPhone application is as “hot” as building a Facebook app was a year ago.
  • Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Friendfeed, LinkedIn). Continued usage/buzz growth in social media especially around these four Web properties. Social and user-centric functionalities are a must-have today. Some difficulties around monetization of social media inventory though.
  • Identity (Facebook Connect, OpenID, Google Friend Connect). With the rise of social media come major challenges around personal identity on the Web. Large social properties want to become that official provider of identity. Will explode in 2009.
  • Local video. This was the hottest new ad product at directory publishers everywhere. I’m convinced that the technology is now a commodity but I’m wondering if the product itself will also become a commodity in the near future (i.e. you need videos in your local search site like you need maps, URLs and click-to-talk buttons)
  • Sobering presentations from directory publisher executives at each Kelsey conference in 2008. More realistic, a clearer view of opportunities and challenges in the industry (great assets, local search industry is booming but erosion in major metro areas, etc.). What used to be said behind closed doors is now mentioned openly.
  • Drastic drop in directory publishers stock prices. Deadly combo of credit crunch, slowdown of the economy, too much debt and market perception. Idearc is delisted after losing 99% of its value. RHD also loses 99% of its value. Similar (although less drastic) situations in Europe and Canada.
  • Microsoft’s failed Yahoo takeover (a proposed buy-out at $31 a share) occupied a good portion of tech news early in the year. This would have a created a very interesting company to compete against Google (desktop technology + social media + search). Jerry Yang, Yahoo!’s co-founder, made sure the deal wouldn’t go through. Yahoo!’s share is now hovering around $12.00.
  • AOL buys into the social-networking game with Bebo. A cool $850 million…
  • Geolocation in browser (geode, loki, Google Gears). We’ve seen the first elements of this in 2008 but this is a potential game changer, transforming every web site into a local destionation
  • Facebook replaces their own classifieds with the Oodle platform. In a move I found very surprising, Facebook outsourced local classifieds clearly showing that they don’t realize they’re in the local search space.

A Look Back At 2008's Most Important News and Trends in Local Search and Social Media

As the year ends, here are, in my humble opinion, the most important news and trends of the year in local search and social media (in no specific order):

  • The major challenges of the newspaper industry. Declining print readership, challenges with monetizing the Web, user fragmentation, lay-offs, stock value decline, etc. 2008 was a very difficult year for the newspaper industry and I don’t think 2009 will be easier with the slowdown in ad spending.
  • Mobile, iPhone & the app store. The launch of the iPhone 3G and the arrival of new “iPhone-killers” devices signaled the beginning of a real tipping point in mobile local search and social media usage. The launch of the iPhone app store also created a new ecosystem leveraging the iPhone’s installed base. At the end of 2008, building an iPhone application is as “hot” as building a Facebook app was a year ago.
  • Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Friendfeed, LinkedIn). Continued usage/buzz growth in social media especially around these four Web properties. Social and user-centric functionalities are a must-have today. Some difficulties around monetization of social media inventory though.
  • Identity (Facebook Connect, OpenID, Google Friend Connect). With the rise of social media come major challenges around personal identity on the Web. Large social properties want to become that official provider of identity. Will explode in 2009.
  • Local video. This was the hottest new ad product at directory publishers everywhere. I’m convinced that the technology is now a commodity but I’m wondering if the product itself will also become a commodity in the near future (i.e. you need videos in your local search site like you need maps, URLs and click-to-talk buttons)
  • Sobering presentations from directory publisher executives at each Kelsey conference in 2008. More realistic, a clearer view of opportunities and challenges in the industry (great assets, local search industry is booming but erosion in major metro areas, etc.). What used to be said behind closed doors is now mentioned openly.
  • Drastic drop in directory publishers stock prices. Deadly combo of credit crunch, slowdown of the economy, too much debt and market perception. Idearc is delisted after losing 99% of its value. RHD also loses 99% of its value. Similar (although less drastic) situations in Europe and Canada.
  • Microsoft’s failed Yahoo takeover (a proposed buy-out at $31 a share) occupied a good portion of tech news early in the year. This would have a created a very interesting company to compete against Google (desktop technology + social media + search). Jerry Yang, Yahoo!’s co-founder, made sure the deal wouldn’t go through. Yahoo!’s share is now hovering around $12.00.
  • AOL buys into the social-networking game with Bebo. A cool $850 million…
  • Geolocation in browser (geode, loki, Google Gears). We’ve seen the first elements of this in 2008 but this is a potential game changer, transforming every web site into a local destionation
  • Facebook replaces their own classifieds with the Oodle platform. In a move I found very surprising, Facebook outsourced local classifieds clearly showing that they don’t realize they’re in the local search space.