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Wednesday, March 1, 2006

SES: The Talking Heads

Mark Malseed is the coauthor of The Google Story, a best-selling account of the company’s rise, which is being published in 17 languages worldwide. He writes about technology and politics from Washington, DC, and travels giving lectures and coaching seminars on search.

The day at the SES kicked off with some musings from a panel of five search pundits. The Q&A session featured Robert Scoble of Microsoft, Zia Daniell Wigder of JupiterResearch, David Vise of the Washington Post, Yahoo’s Jeremy Zawodny and Google’s Matt Cutts. Funny that three of the pundits also work for the top search companies – newsmakers also serving as the commentators. Hmm ... is this what is meant by “convergence”?

What they had to say – namely that local, mobile, maps, and social search are the areas to watch – didn’t exactly require a crystal ball (or an all-access Googleplex badge) to figure out. But the things that insiders choose to mention always bear listening to. Judging by the talk on the Expo floor and in other sessions, local and social search are really heating up. Zia of Jupiter said wider adoption of social search will come before mobile search in the U.S., though the panel noted that in other parts of the world, mobile technology is well advanced.

It struck me that for all the terabytes of user data collected and analyzed by the search engines, the pundits from Microsoft, Yahoo and Google each opted for personal anecdotes to illustrate where they see the future headed. Scoble mentioned his wife uses online maps as a starting point for more and more searching; Zawodny talked up his car’s GPS unit as a mobile device offering search in a new way; and Cutts said he recently spent an entire Sunday afternoon poking around Google’s video site for content, finding the content more interesting than he expected. Interesting would be the word.

David Vise (my partner on the Google book) noted that in video search, the content people really want to see are tv shows and movies, and the companies are all working on digital rights management and deals with studios to make that happen.

On Wednesday, a look at the majors.


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