Oct 29, 2005

Google and Yahoo - The clash of the titans

Google is the world's most popular search engine. Yahoo is arguably the world's best portal. And both of these giants of the Web are entering into a battle for supremacy. It is going to be one long struggle.

Yahoo, the oldest of the two (and even then only about ten years old!), started out as a bunch of links to some good sites on the then, sparsely populated Web. Over time, it has become a one-stop shop for the net surfer, offering everything from mail and chat to finance and search. The user-base of the portal is very strong, and growing every day.

Google started out as a project by two Stanford University students. Designed to make sense of the Web using an algorithm of link structures of the pages on the Web, Google provided the searcher with more accurate results than conventional search engines, and its popularity soared in a couple of years to make it the most popular search engine.

Google's efforts to build on its loyal users and convert them into an active user-base with huge potential for revenue generation is only the natural thing for them to do. After all, they have one of the strongest brands in the world and what good is all that brand equity if you can't make some money out of it? Google has been offering advertising solutions to marketers who will be only too happy to pay Google for showing their links near to the search results. Also, using its context-sensitive advertising, Google is even making money out of content of other publishers.

That is all very good, but is Google trying to do too many things at the same time? Gmail, their free e-mail service, is still in Beta stage, and users aren't too sure when it will be final. Google's homepage, which was a clear white screen with a searchbox and a couple of buttons a few years ago is turning into a collection of links to the many services it offers. It is okay for now, but if the trend continues, it won't be soon before the Google home-page will be looking more and more like Yahoo's. Yahoo, on the other hand, is much more experienced in content management and portal design than Google, and the number of visits to their different services everyday proves it.

Granted, Google's services have been delivering, but aren't they really straying a bit too far from their core competency - search? Google is what it is now because of its excellent search engine, and nothing else. Shouldn't they be rather trying to improve the quality of their search results than to give users what they can already get from other sites? After all, the mantra of survival on the WWW is differentiation. If you are just like the rest, who needs you anyway?

Oct 17, 2005

Biometric protection for mobile phones

If you have ever been worried about your mobile phones being stolen in the airport or in the train, fear no more. Finnish scientists have developed technology that will curb the theft of mobile phones which are "smart" enough to know the user by the way he walks, or the gait. They claim an identification rate of over 90 percent, which will improve over time.

The technology works like this: sensors in the phone continuously monitors the gait of the user and compares it with stored values, on a variety of parameters from your speed of walking to how your body swings, and many others. If the phone sees any difference in the monitored data and stored data, it immediately locks up and can be unlocked only by a password.

This is to discourage steal theft in the hope that thieves will be unable to bypass the system, which is essentially biometric in nature and theoretically non-mimicable. However, the system may be triggered when you change your shoes or something else which may change the way you walk. The technology has been patented and is expected to be commercialised in a variety of mobile phones, PDAs and notebooks. Thieves beware - the phone may actually ring up the police and let them know that it has been stolen, and more importantly, where you are right now.

Oct 15, 2005

Geolocation : The new tool in Internet Marketing

If you thought that you were anonymous on the Internet, think again. Your IP address (the unique ID of any device connected to the Net) and your browser (Firefox, Opera, Internet Explorer, etc.) gives the server or anyone interested, enough information about your geographic location, timezone, operating system on your PC, browser configuration, etc. that can be used to identify you as a unique visitor with specific preferences and characteristics. This can be used to target you with specific marketing tools on the Web.

Using geolocation (also known as geotargeting), advertisements can be delivered for users who visit the page from a specific geographic location. For example, a New York computer store can display ads to users from New York alone, thereby filtering out prospects who are more likely to become customers, and thereby incur a lower rate on ads displayed. The users also will get locale-specific advertisements, which is basically information on purchases he is potentially interested in.

Geolocation can also help in redirecting visitors to sites with localcontent automatically, as Google does in its homepage, for instance. A visitor from India typing in 'google.com' will first be taken to 'google.co.in' automatically.

Geolocation services basically work by looking up the country against which the IP address of the visiting user is registered and uses this information for providing localised content or delivering locale-specific advertisements or whatever. The possibilities of using technologies like geolocation and IP mapping to Internet marketing are endless.

However, technical measures to ensure anonymity such as proxy servers can be used to circumvent restrictions imposed by geolocation/geotargeting software.

Refer Geolocation by IP address for more technical information about the subject.

P.S: The script used in this page to identify your location is provided by Geobytes. (I am sorry if your location was not detected correctly by the script; it was alright when I checked from a few places.)

P.P.S: I have removed the script that 'geolocates' your location since my current blog post has changed. There are a lot of GeoLocation services like Geobytes.com and ip2location.com that provides these services. Most of them are paid, and some are free.

Oct 1, 2005

Free email: With Flash?

Oh, not another one, you say. Well, this one is quite different. It even has a radically different name. How does Goowy sound to you?

Tired of boring old emails? Need a new look to your inbox? You got it.

The guys who gave us Geocities ( for the uninitiated, Geocities were one of the pioneers of free Web space) are responsible for bringing out Goowy. Now in Beta stage, Goowy already offers free accounts at its home page and I strongly suggest that you get one for yourself and try it now.

Probably the first webmail application built on Flash, Goowy offers an exciting new look to the way you look at your mails. Interactive menus and sound, online calendar and a contact manager all add up to this new Web experience. However, the site recommends a broadband connection on a reasonably fast computer for the best experience. People with dial-up connections need not worry, there is also a lite version, but it naturally will not give you the best.

Macromedia, the guys who made Flash technology, have officially recognised Goowy through a whitepaper they released, on the future of Flash.

Designed to take the boredom out of Web email, Goowy does just that. Providing the ease of use of a conventional desktop email client like Outlook Express, Goowy is anything but conventional.

The service, like Gmail, is in Beta stage. That is the stage where the developers release the product for user testing and it means that the final product will be even better. So we can expect a lot more from Goowy. The only thing I am wondering is how did they come to that name anyway?