Snippets From A Fast-Changing World

An independent observer looks at things differently to someone who is right in the middle.

Nothing much happened

MARCH 21, 2011 by Nicholas Carr

“If you look at the history of the world, up until 1700 nothing much happened.” That’s what Karl Marx said to Friedrich Engels when the two first met, at a cafe in Paris, in 1844. No, I’m kidding. The guy who actually spoke those words is Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist, and he spoke them just a few days ago.…more

Facebook plans discount deals programme

Facebook said it was entering the fast-growing “deal of the day” market, posing a challenge to online discount marketing pioneers Groupon and LivingSocial.

The social network’s large audience and detailed database of user preferences positions it to be a fierce competitor in this market, which is expected to generate nearly $4bn by 2015, according to consulting firm BIA/Kelsey. Facebook’s move could boost its revenue stream as itconsiders a public offering – and potentially compromises Groupon’s impending IPO...more

Google to Help Broker Video Ads

By AMIR EFRATI

Google Inc., trying to become a middleman for selling video ads on the Internet, will soon test a service that matches advertisers with website publishers, including Google’s own YouTube video site.

The Silicon Valley company is creating the video marketplace within its DoubleClick Ad Exchange, Neal Mohan, a Google vice president for product management, said in an interview. It resembles existing exchanges used to sell graphical and interactive ads, a category known as display.

Such exchanges allow companies to bid to place ads across different websites in real time, or right at the moment a user has called up a particular Web page...more

You’ve still got mail

By Chris Nuttall in San Francisco Published: March 10 2011

I rediscovered my old AOL e-mail account this week and was taken down e-memory lane as the famous “You’ve Got Mail!” message boomed from the PC speaker as I signed in. After years of neglect and only spam in my inbox, it was like a voice from beyond the grave – and with the same old US accent they never localised for the UK with a British voice proclaiming: “Post Is Here!”

I had logged in because I was taking the pulse of e-mail in general. Its obituary has been written repeatedly by the media over the past 10 years – strangled by spam in 2003, smothered by social networks in 2007 and razed by real-time communication such as Google Wave in 2009, before predictions of being finished off by Facebook Messagesthis year...more

Richard J. Tofel: Someday, the sun will set on SEO — and the business of news will be better for it

By Richard J. Tofel

Editor’s NoteRichard J. Tofel is general manager at ProPublica, a Wall Street Journal veteran, and author of a number of books, most recently Eight Weeks in Washington, 1861: Abraham Lincoln and the Hazards of Transition. Here he looks toward a future when search engine optimization has been rendered obsolete by advancing technology — and the implications for news.

The first time I saw the Google guys in action, one of them — I believe it was Larry Page — stunned the small crowd. It was long before the IPO, when Google was the Next New Thing, the search engine that the cool kids in the class, or the office, were knowingly mentioning to the rest of us. The interviewer was fawning over the young upstarts when Page said, “I’m glad you think Google is great, but I think it sucks.”

His point, he quickly added, is that the objective of a search engine is to enable the reader to find what he or she wants. Google, Page noted, rarely does this perfectly. Even the simplest searches retrieve pages of choices, many of them quite beside the point...more