Microsoft Promotes Live With Spambots

Spam

SpamThe Getclicky Blog reports that Live Search has been swelling up its importance as a search referrer through a spam bot:<

what it does is pretend that it’s a person and spams your sites with tons of hits and fake searches.

Just follow the link to Getclicky’s Blog to see a screenshot of the spammed traffic report.< I am actually very surprised that such a big name in the industry would use such an obvious spamming method. This is such a risk in terms of brand reputation, I don't see how it can even be tolerated. I guess some execs thought it would push site owners to consider Live Search as a growing referrer, which would in turn push them to include more of Live Search in their paid search strategy.

Social Graphs Are Poor Predictors For Advertisers

facebook microsoft

As I am in the post-prod of Aggregate Knowledge‘s video interview for HyveUp, I decided to share this chunk of video that I believe fits today’s news. If social graphs are not ad preformance boosters, then why exactly shall Facebook be a money-making makina? Most ads I see on Facebook are about a friend who liked something or joined some network. I never click on those (I just never click on Facebook ads), and I don’t usually care about those.

That’s why I don’t see how integrating Live Search into Facebook will be profitable for Microsoft’s search technology, branding strategies put aside. On another hand, it’s hard to draw the line between creating vapor around a project and developing real technology initiatives. So is Microsoft budding up with Facebook for the hype or for the technology? hard to say.

Powerset’s Launch and Sell Strategy

powerset

Powerset today announced on their blog that the transaction with Microsoft has been finalized. The cool natural language search engine isn’t a wriggling fresh startup anymore, but has made the Darth Vader’s move towards the dark side of Microsoft’s heavy search infrastructures.

So Powerset isn’t one of the hype search startups of the Valley anymore. There has always been much ado about Barney Pell’s ability to buzz and sell startups, but I think that Powerset’s story is a case study that should be taught in tech economy classes.

First, consider the unusual amount of press they got in Techcrunch since August of last year:

This is more than 15 articles featuring Powerset in a year. Web startups usually get an average of 0.4 reviews a year on Techcrunch. In the case of Powerset, their news got covered when they were looking for a new CEO, when they made a case study with Miss South Carolina, and 4 articles were about their acquisition. Rather unusual… Undoubtedly, the PR firm contracted by Powerset did a good job creating compelling news about the company. Nonetheless, not all their clients get such good coverage. Powerset’s strength lied in their intrinsic buzz strategy:

  1. The company is a search engine – it positions Powerset as a virtual threat for Google (i.e. as an opportunity for Microsoft).
  2. Their first product is a Wikipedia search tool – it positions Powerset as a portal for one of the most popular Websites of all times.
  3. The search engine focuses on natural language search queries, a fantasy world – As Lorenzo Thione states in the interview above: “If you can crack that nut of understanding human language, with algorithms, with computers, then you open up the door to something that has been part of the collective imaginary for a long time”.
  4. The Founder’s got a great deal of startup experiences – Barney Pell has an impressive resume in the fields of search and VC activities.
  5. Powerset is part of the Silicon Valley’s cool kids gang – they co-organize exciting events for the local tech community.
  6. They get social media coverage – I don’t know what is their deal with top bloggers, but it works.
  7. All the factors above creates a bubble around the company’s name that consequently over-values the initial search engine project.

Techcrunch generates vapor for Powerset

powerset

Today, Michael Arrington brings up some Saturday afternoon talk by wondering if Powerset should sell before launch. I find this to be a weird question: If Powerset has been able to create a vaporware, then they should be able to attract at least a few million users in the first few months, and generate a monster buzz in the tech blogosphere.

However, the Web 2.0 opinion leader has a point: Now that Microsoft cannot count on Yahoo to gain market shares, it’ll have to focus on acquiring promising young technologies. Powerset is the perfect target for Microsoft: search engine, natural search, actively positioning itself as the next Google, and about to launch. However, it doesn’t make sense for Powerset to sell right now. They developed a promising search engine full of business opportunities. If they succeed, they’ll be making $100m a month.

Sending mixed messages is a new communication fashion. Techcrunch is a king in this field. Not that I don’t like this style, but concerning Powerset, they should at least launch for a year to sell a search engine with users, instead of a dull deserted platform like Second Life.

Microsoft’s Winning Bet On Video

microsoft

We’ve all been hearing lately about startups failing to deliver a profitable distribution model for content creators. Now – thank you Ad Lab – we’re seeing smarter technologies emerging to tackle the apparently tricky online video distribution dilemma.

Contextual Ads for Video. Through speech recognition, this technology enables ads to be dynamically served based on the content discussed in the video.

I’m really impressed by the way that Microsoft is handling online video. First, this really smart and simple advertising solution will most probably have more effect than a clickable branded banner.

Plus Microsoft is developing its Smart Trailers technology, a great feature that analyzes a movie file and spits a trailer out. While Google complains that it’s losing money on Myspace with their text ads – whereas Ford is satisfied enough with the even lamer Myspace video show Roommates to sponsor the second season – Microsoft has bet on video as the next best thing on the Web and this strategy is starting to show amazingly coherent results.

With or without Yahoo!, Microsoft is definitely shaking the ladder on top of which Google is starting to slip gently back down.