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Catchup: Google's Orion, bubbling Internet IPOs, Web 2.0 ad nauseum

Here's the latest, as of Tuesday afternoon:

ori allon.jpg
Ori Allon
Google to let you avoid clicking through to pages? -- Google has bought software developed by a graduate student in Australia, Ori Allon, that displays information from Web sites directly without users having to click through to seperate pages. The idea is that it takes too much time to click on a result -- because you can click on a page only to find it is not interesting, and then be forced to click back to the main results page, and so on. If we understand correctly, the software, called Orion, is a preview technology similar to start-ups like Browster and Cooliris, and the "binoculars" feature at Ask.com. Orion also displays search results for topics related to the user's query. Here is more info about the 26-year-old who developed the software in six months, and who is now a Google employee.

Local Matters is a head-scratcher -- Local Matters is a local yellow pages search/ad company that churned up only $8.5 million in revenue last year. And yet it is trying to raise $57.5M in an initial public offering. True, it has merged with some other entities, and their combined revenue is up to about $30 million, but that is still below the $60 million or so threshold used lately by investment bankers for judging whether a company is ready to go public or not. Same for Omniture, a Web analytics company that had only $40 million in revenues last year, and lost $17 million the same year. Its growing, though, and that's probably why the bankers are willing to take it on. Signs things are hopping again in IPO-land?

Web 2.0 lemming rush continues -- Guba is a San Francisco company is yet another company trying to embrace "online video hosting and sharing," when there has got to be nearly 90 other companies already doing that, Om Malik correctly points out. It is splitting its adult content business into a separate unit. And now the hope expressed by Thomas Mcinerney, co-founder: "...We're expecting Guba to be in the Alexa top 100 inside of 6 months." Unfortunately, not everybody can be in the Alexa top 100, even if all 100 do end up all video related. And if you've got 100 video-sharing companies, how do they all make money? Final surprise, Guba is looking to raise venture capital.

More Web 2.0...Zooomr & Ookles latest photo sites -- We're simply referring to these latest Flickr-like products, in case you like experimenting with these sorts of features. There are just too many to keep criticizing them for not having a business model. Some appear to be quick 'n dirty two-week projects, not really designed to make money, while others are more ambitious. Can't speak for Zooomr or Ookles. In the case of Zooomr, it is designed by 17-year-old founder Kristopher Tate, and according to Mike Arrington, is coming out this week. And remember the guy, Scott Johnson, who raised seed funding for his company Ookles while talking on the phone in Om Malik's loo? Well Mike says Johnson, a founder of the blog search engine Feedster, apparently got $75,000, and is declaring Ookles will be Flickr+Riya+YouTube.

Web 2.0 ad nauseam....When should publishers get nervous about these RSS-rippers? -- There's a San Francisco company called Pixsy, which scans through RSS feeds from publishers for photos and videos and then makes millions of them searchable on its site. That could get some publishers anxious, if they are paying photographers full salaries to take pictures, only to see those pictures pop up on some other site like Pixsy. And then there's a company called Veoh, which is being accused of using RSS to hijack videobloggers' content. Perhaps a better question is how many of these RSS video rippers are there going to be? Won't they simply die from irrelevance, and lack of a business plan?

Spotting gun shots is expensive -- ShotSpotter has raised $9.4 million more in venture capital. This Santa Clara company makes technology that lets you know where gun shots come from, and can help trigger 911 dispatches. We wrote about them a while ago, when they raised just under $2 million.

Atiq Raza's last, last stand? -- Atiq Raza has raised $20 million for his Cupertino chip design company, Raza Microelectronics, as he awaits revenue. Last year, we blogged about the sweat that Atiq Raza has poured into this chip design company, which he salvaged in the wake of the Internet bubble burst. He's already raised more than $100 million.

Two more ways to pay with your cell phone -- In case you missed the news from last week's CTIA conference, two Silicon Valley companies, PayPal of eBay, and Obopay, have elaborated on their cell phone payment technologies. Obopay, which has been secretive until now, says beginning this Sunday users can control how much money is available on a debit card that is linked to their Oboypay account, and they can transfer money to other Obopay accounts. Meanwhile, with PayPal, you can send $10 to a friend by typing a text message "10 To (Your friend's phone number)." You send it to a PayPal code. PayPal calls you back, asks for your pin number, and once it verifies your identity, it completes the transaction. Your friend then gets a text message telling them how to access the money. PayPal will continue to charge a fee.


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Comments

Matt:

You still haven't written about the patent issues involved in the PayPal-TextPayMe saga. I would strongly suggest you look into that. Would be very interesting subject matter. Do us a favor.

Jim on April 11, 2006 2:10 PM
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Matt, to call Pixsy a "video ripper" shows a lack of due diligence and journalistic research on your part. Additionally, your tone sounds smug and a little condescending. As a journalist, I would expect more, especially from someone affiliated with The Mercury News.

If you had spent a bit more time on our site, reading other news stories about us, and perhaps calling or emailing me to ask some questions - you would have learned that we have developed a unique image search model which significantly improves upon existing image search engines like Google, Yahoo, and MSN.

If we're a "video ripper", then so are these big three engines as well, since they scour websites and take thumbnail images and make them searchable.

Our approach is generally more palatable to the content creator since they are actively syndicating their content using RSS.

I hope that provides you and your readers some clarification.

Regards,

Chase

------------
Chase Norlin
CEO, Pixsy

Chase Norlin on April 11, 2006 2:18 PM
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This is a war for talents too. Apparently, Allon's schoold in Australia talked to Microsoft, Yahoo!, and Google, but in the end, Google got it.

Helen Wang on April 11, 2006 3:09 PM
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Google and Yahoo are neck and neck constantly. The IPO stuff for startups is definetely intersetin gthough.

Benjamin on April 11, 2006 4:23 PM
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Chase, thanks for the comment. I'm glad we've since had a chance to talk off-line about this, and am encouraged that you are open to debate.

So for the record, here's how I respond to your comment: I stand by what I wrote.

To your credit, I suppose one can make an argument that publishers who syndicate via RSS are more amenable to their photos being used. But one can quite easily argue the opposite, i.e, that publishers, such as I, use RSS to push to material as a simpler more efficient way of delivery, and don't intend to have their creations used in other ways.

And regarding the word "ripped," I'll stand by that too. You're taking photos from RSS, and I looked at your site, and your photos are not as immediately labeled with sourcing information as are Google's or Yahoo's images. In fact, there are no markings at all on the photos you have on your site until you click on them, and then there is a box that pops up which still doesn't have any hyperlinks or other immediate detailed source information. You have to click yet another time to get to more detailed information -- clearly a more laborious process than the other mainstream engines. (Right now, I can't even get to the source with this second click, though you say it is because of my Norton antivirus, which is fair enough, because you say you are going to fix that).

But if Google has run into trouble for displaying photo images from companies like Ten even while supplying abundant source credit (one problem was that Google was often getting them from third party sources), Pixsy is pushing the envelope even more with its two-click-deep source-info requirement. You show no intent to forward the reader to the original source.

Finally, if I search on your site for "iPod," I get a bunch of photos (again with no clear sourcing info at the outside) and ads on the left-hand side of the page. So you are monetizing your image site, even while Google and Yahoo do not (though admittedly, Yahoo comes close, with its singular house shopping ad on top).

If that is not ripping content for your financial gain, I'm not sure what is.

I remain open to debate. Let me know if I've got something wrong.

Matt

Matt Marshall on April 11, 2006 10:27 PM
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Hi Matt:

I'm enjoying this debate. Your most valid point is that related to source information, and we'll be incorporating these updates very soon into our service. Also, you should check out Microsoft's www.live.com image search engine, as they don't have immediate attribution in the image search results until you scroll over.

I should point out that there are a variety of image search engines that monetize their results - Ask.com, Excite.com, AltaVista, Ditto.com, BellSouth (http://home.bellsouth.net), and many others.

Also, we have relationships with large volume image providers, which seem very happy with providing us small thumbnails in exchange for exposure and traffic.

Regards,

Chase

Chase Norlin on April 12, 2006 5:44 PM
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Matt,

While we're on the subject of clarifying, I'm the CEO of GUBA.com. Om Malik got it wrong: GUBA has been around 8 for years, we lived through the bubble, have been profitable since 1999, and we haven't taken any outside money. To call us a Web 2.0 lemming is absurd. Before founding GUBA I was a software engineer for Sony and Apple, I majored in computer science and so did my co-founder. I was programming at the age of 10 when I got my first Apple II for Christmas. I do this because I enjoy it, not for the money. And frankly, who cares if there are lots of video sites, let consumers try and use the ones they like. That's what free markets are all about.

Chase got it right. Take a little time to back your musings up with a bit of research and thought. We have employees who pay for their mortgages and families with the salary they earn from GUBA. As a journalist, you can call or email me and I'll take time out of my busy day to talk to you. As will most CEOs. This is a unique opportunity so take advantage of it. Otherwise, you risk your credibility.

Thomas McInerney
CEO, GUBA.com

Thomas McInerney on April 12, 2006 5:57 PM
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Thomas,

Thanks for commenting, and I'm glad we've since had a chance to talk off-line. For the record, I feel compelled to respond here too. I'm reading through my original post, and still don't see how it is factually wrong. As you confirmed in an offline conversation, you only started allowing user generated video to be posted at your site two months ago. That is the "lemming" effect I'm referring to. With YouTube, Yahoo, Google et al doing this, it seems like everybody else wants in. Sure, you've been involved with video in other ways for several years, including letting people crawl usenet and the Web for content, and hosting stuff that you've signed IP agreements for. Perhaps I should have pointed that out, and you comment is well received for that reason. But the gist of what I wrote still holds.

Matt Marshall on April 13, 2006 10:30 PM
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