May 24, 2008

Ten principles that contribute to a Google user experience

I got this article through an email from one of my colleague (Sameer) and I found it really interesting.


1. Focus on people – their lives, their work, their dreams

The Google User Experience team works to discover people's actual needs, including needs they can't always articulate. Armed with that information, Google can create products that solve real-world problems and spark the creativity of all kinds of people. Improving people's lives, not just easing step-by-step tasks, is our goal.

Above all, a well-designed Google product is useful in daily life. It doesn't try to impress users with its whizbang technology or visual style – though it might have both. It doesn't strong-arm people to use features they don't want – but it does provide a natural growth path for those who are interested. It doesn't intrude on people's lives – but it does open doors for users who want to explore the world's information, work more quickly and creatively, and share ideas with their friends or the world.

2. Every millisecond counts

Nothing is more valuable than people's time. Google pages load quickly, thanks to slim code and carefully selected image files. The most essential features and text are placed in the easiest-to-find locations. Unnecessary clicks, typing, steps, and other actions are eliminated. Google products ask for information only once and include smart defaults. Tasks are streamlined.

Speed is a boon to users. It is also a competitive advantage that Google doesn't sacrifice without good reason.

3. Simplicity is powerful

Simplicity fuels many elements of good design, including ease of use, speed, visual appeal, and accessibility. But simplicity starts with the design of a product's fundamental functions. Google doesn't set out to create feature-rich products; our best designs include only the features that people need to accomplish their goals. Ideally, even products that require large feature sets and complex visual designs appear to be simple as well as powerful.

Google teams think twice before sacrificing simplicity in pursuit of a less important feature. Our hope is to evolve products in new directions instead of just adding more features.

4. Engage beginners and attract experts

Designing for many people doesn't mean designing for the lowest common denominator. The best Google designs appear quite simple on the surface but include powerful features that are easily accessible to those users who want them. Our intent is to invite beginners with a great initial experience while also attracting power users whose excitement and expertise will draw others to the product.

A well-designed Google product lets new users jump in, offers help when necessary, and ensures that users can make simple and intuitive use of the product's most valuable features. Progressive disclosure of advanced features encourages people to expand their usage of the product. Whenever appropriate, Google offers smart features that entice people with complex online lives – for instance, people who share data across several devices and computers, work online and off, and crave storage space.

5. Dare to innovate

Design consistency builds a trusted foundation for Google products, makes users comfortable, and speeds their work. But it is the element of imagination that transforms designs from ho-hum to delightful.

Google encourages innovative, risk-taking designs whenever they serve the needs of users. Our teams encourage new ideas to come out and play. Instead of just matching the features of existing products, Google wants to change the game.

6. Design for the world

The World Wide Web has opened all the resources of the Internet to people everywhere. For example, many users are exploring Google products while strolling with a mobile device, not sitting at a desk with a personal computer. Our goal is to design products that are contextually relevant and available through the medium and methods that make sense to users. Google supports slower connections and older browsers when possible, and Google allows people to choose how they view information (screen size, font size) and how they enter information (smart query parsing). The User Experience team researches the fundamental differences in user experiences throughout the world and works to design the right products for each audience, device, and culture. Simple translation, or "graceful degradation" of a feature set, isn't sufficient to meet people's needs.

Google is also committed to improving the accessibility of its products. Our desire for simple and inclusive products, and Google's mission to make the world's information universally accessible, demand products that support assistive technologies and provide a useful and enjoyable experience for everyone, including those with physical and cognitive limitations.

7. Plan for today's and tomorrow's business

Those Google products that make money strive to do so in a way that is helpful to users. To reach that lofty goal, designers work with product teams to ensure that business considerations integrate seamlessly with the goals of users. Teams work to make sure ads are relevant, useful, and clearly identifiable as ads. Google also takes care to protect the interests of advertisers and others who depend on Google for their livelihood.

Google never tries to increase revenue from a product if it would mean reducing the number of Google users in the future. If a profitable design doesn't please users, it's time to go back to the drawing board. Not every product has to make money, and none should be bad for business.

8. Delight the eye without distracting the mind

If people looked at a Google product and said "Wow, that's beautiful!" the User Experience team would cheer. A positive first impression makes users comfortable, assures them that the product is reliable and professional, and encourages people to make the product their own.

A minimalist aesthetic makes sense for most Google products because a clean, clutter-free design loads quickly and doesn't distract users from their goals. Visually appealing images, color, and fonts are balanced against the needs for speed, scannable text, and easy navigation. Still, "simple elegance" is not the best fit for every product. Audience and cultural context matter. A Google product's visual design should please its users and improve usability for them.

9. Be worthy of people's trust

Good design can go a long way to earn the trust of the people who use Google products. Establishing Google's reliability starts with the basics – for example, making sure the interface is efficient and professional, actions are easily reversed, ads are clearly identified, terminology is consistent, and users are never unhappily surprised. In addition, Google products open themselves to the world by including links to competitors and encouraging user contributions such as community maps or iGoogle gadgets.

A greater challenge is to make sure that Google demonstrates respect for users' right to own and control their own data. Google is transparent about how it uses information and never shares data outside Google without a user's explicit consent. Our products warn users about such dangers as insecure connections, different privacy policies on other websites, actions that may make users vulnerable to spam, or the possibility that data shared outside Google may be stored elsewhere. Google is reassuring but truthful about data sharing so that users can make informed choices. The larger Google becomes, the more essential it is to live up to our "Don't be evil" motto.

10. Add a human touch

Google includes a wide range of personalities, and our designs have personality, too. Text and design elements are friendly, quirky, and smart – and not boring, close-minded, or arrogant. Google text talks directly to people and offers the same practical, informal assistance that anyone would offer to a neighbor who asked a question. And Google doesn't let fun or personality interfere with other elements of a design, especially when people's livelihood, or their ability to find vital information, is at stake.

Google doesn't know everything, and no design is perfect. Our products ask for feedback, and Google acts on that feedback. When practicing these design principles, the Google User Experience team seeks the best possible balance in the time available for each product. Then the cycle of iteration, innovation, and improvement continues.

May 23, 2008

Third-party ads now available on the Google content network

Got this email from Google Today


Greetings from Google!

We're happy to announce that the Google content network now
accepts display ads served from qualified third-party vendors.
During this initial release, only ads in English are eligible,
although we look forward to offering more options in the future.

By accepting third-party ads, we can attract a greater variety of
advertising on the Google content network, which we believe will
result over time in increased revenue for publishers and more
relevant advertising for end users.

If you're currently opted in to image ads, you're already able to
receive third-party ads. If not, you can enable image ads to start
receiving third-party ads immediately.

If you choose to allow third-party ads on your site, please update
your privacy policy to inform your visitors that third-party
vendors may serve ads on your site. Please also provide links to
these vendor websites and inform your users that they may opt out
of cookies (if the vendor offers this capability). For more
information about updating your policies, visit

You'll continue to have full control over which ads appear on your
site with tools like competitive ad filtering and the Ad Review
Center. Also, only advertisers with whom we have proven
relationships and who've clearly demonstrated commitments to our
quality standards may participate in this program. Our policies
governing ad content and formatting remain unchanged.

To learn more about third-party ads, please visit our blog post at
and our FAQ at
If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to contact us at


The Google AdSense Team

Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043

March 18, 2008

IE 8: Better or Worse

Hey, I was trying to download Windows updates but got this message.

It seems they were not able to identify that I am using IE-8 , thus prompting me to upgrade to IE-7.

So what next, I clicked on the "Emulate IE7" button in the command bar and surprisingly it worked.

March 7, 2008

IE 8: Beta 1 Available for Download!

The downloads of the IE8 Beta 1 which was released by Microsoft at the Mix 08 conference, are available for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, x64 versions, Windows XP (SP2) and Server 2003 (SP2) as well as XP x64 and Server 2003 x64 .

Some of the details of the latest version are given below.

Microsoft wants to give the user easier access to typical activities involved when visiting a web site, for example sending data by E-mail or looking up an address in a street-map service. IE8 will make such operations possible via a context menu. The user can install it by JavaScript from any web site. For this purpose, a developer must describe the action in the form of an XML document.

A second innovation appears in the middle between news feeds, widgets and Firefox's live bookmarks. If the user adds "WebSlices" to his favourites bar, he can click it to have a quick look at the weather forecast and stock exchange prices. This favourites bar was previously known as the links bar: it offers space for news feeds and references to local documents, as well as bookmarks and WebSlices. Web designers can identify an area on their sites as a WebSlice by giving it certain class attributes - very much in the spirit of microformats.

Perhaps IE8 will give a strong push to the development of Ajax applications. New functions tackle the problem of navigation and connectivity; IE8 implements DOM storage, a storage mechanism specified in HTML5 that Firefox already knows about. That could offer a range of functions for storing offline data, similar to those of Google Gears. IE8 will also allow Ajax links to other domains; how the browser will solve the possible problem of security is not revealed in the documents so far published.

IE8 has borrowed from its competitors the feature of restoration following a crash, to enable work to be seamlessly continued, with a previously open tab for example. Microsoft claims as its major innovation the improvements made to the phishing filter introduced by the previous version. Bugs with HTML compatibility and with the DOM functions are said to have been eliminated, a known memory leak is said to have been closed, and speed is claimed to have been increased overall.

Source: HEISE Online

Michael Muchmore has also written a very comprehensive technical review. You can read it on .

February 20, 2008

Tech quiz: How well do you know the latest advances?

1. Microsoft introduced a new version of its Zune music player in 2006. Name a key Zune feature that Microsoft has promoted in its battle against Apple Inc.'s rival iPod.

A. WiMax connectivity
B. Wi-Fi connectivity
C. Wiki connectivity
D. Why should I care about connectivity?

2. Five years ago, almost 90 percent of all digital photo prints were produced on home printers. In 2007, what percentage of digital prints were made at home?

A. 72 percent
B. 50 percent
C. 38 percent
D. 24 percent

3. unveiled a new electronic book reader in November: a $399 digital screen with a keyboard and the ability to buy best-selling books for $10. What is the name of Amazon's new device?

Story continues below
A. Reader
B. Kindle
C. eInk
D. iRead

4. In 2006, only 20 percent of all digital cameras had a resolution of seven megapixels or above. Last year, about what percentage of all digital cameras sold in the United States boasted resolutions over seven megapixels?

A. 30 percent
B. 40 percent
C. 50 percent
D. 70 percent

5. In 2006, there were about 161 billion gigabytes of digital information stored online, on personal computers and on corporate servers. How much do experts expect to be stored in 2010?

A. 250 billion
B. 362 billion
C. 988 billion
D. 1.212 trillion

6. Which of the following electronics retailers won't be around to battle Wal-Mart and Costco with razor-thin margins this year?

A. Best Buy
B. CompUSA
C. Circuit City
D. Tweeter

7. Where do local merchants think they're most likely to find the consumers they're targeting with their online ads?

A. local newspaper sites
B. local television sites
C. Yellow Pages sites
D. Internet-company sites

8. IRobot added a new line to its robot vacuum cleaners and swimming-pool cleaners last year. What does it clean?

A. toilets
B. cat pans
C. home gutters
D. bath tubs

9. Flash drives that hold up to 32 gigabytes of data in a tiny space and plug into a computer USB port to upload or download files are showing up in all sorts of unlikely devices. Which of these is now being sold as a flash-memory device?

A. Swarovski heart pendant
B. Swiss Army knife
C. plastic sushi
D. ballpoint pen
E. all of the above

10. Which of the following companies agreed with the Justice Department to pay $21 million in fines for promoting illegal gambling in the United States?

A. Microsoft
B. Harrah's


1. B. Wi-Fi is the wireless networking technology that is used in homes and at hot spots like coffee shops, and it allows Zune users to download a tune directly from a computer without plugging in a cable. Most iPods can't do that.

The iPod brand still dominates the world of music players. It had about a 60 percent share of the market for most of last year, based on unit sales, compared with around 10 percent for Zune, according to estimates by market-research firm NPD Group Inc.

2. C. Consumers increasingly are relying on retailers to print their photos. Most of the time, that means bringing the camera's memory card to a kiosk or mini-lab at a store, but a growing number of photographers upload their pictures to retailers' Web sites and then pick up the prints when they go to the store. People are increasingly reluctant to print their pictures themselves because of the cost of ink and specialty paper and the sometimes disappointing results of home printing.

3. B. Although the Kindle isn't the first electronic book device, the Amazon sponsorship brings vastly more content than earlier readers — 88,000 books and numerous periodicals available for purchase. And the Kindle offers wireless downloading, unlike Sony Corp.'s $299 electronic Reader, which requires users to download content through a PC.

It's too soon to say, though, whether the Kindle's advantages will help spark a market that has been close to invisible, especially in the glare of the popularity of portable digital music players.

EInk is the technology used by the Kindle and the Reader to display text while avoiding the flicker of LCD screens. IRead is a Facebook application that lets users list and review the books they have read.

4. D, according to NPD Group. And better picture quality isn't costing consumers more, as the price of the most popular cameras remains in a range of about $200 to $300. The steady improvement in resolution allows images to be tightly cropped and still blown up into clear pictures for calendars or photo collections. But this may be a trend that has run its course: Photography experts say further advances in resolution won't make much difference in photo quality.

5. C. Thanks to the proliferation of user-generated content such as YouTube videos and online photos, stored digital information is growing 60 percent a year, according to market-research company IDC.

6. B. CompUSA Inc., currently operating in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, is being liquidated after its acquisition by Gordon Brothers Group PLC. But 16 of its stores have since been acquired by Systemax Inc. and will continue to use the CompUSA name in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico.

CompUSA had struggled to find a profitable niche competing with larger firms with greater economies of scale. Best Buy Co. remains the No. 1 specialty electronics retailer, with rising sales of flat-screen TVs and other popular electronics. Circuit City Stores Inc. is No. 2, but it has been losing money as it revamps stores and tries to improve customer service.

7. D. Last year, for the first time, local advertisers spent more on sites like or than on local newspapers' sites. Internet companies got 44 percent of the $8.5 billion local advertisers spent online, newspaper companies got 33 percent, Yellow Pages sites got 10 percent and local-television sites got 9.3 percent, according to media research firm Borrell Associates. This year, local online advertising is expected to rise 48 percent to $12.6 billion, led by growth in car, job and real-estate ads.

8. C. The Looj reduces the number of times a homeowner must climb a ladder to scoop leaves out of gutters. The robot was designed by iRobot Corp. to be small and light enough to be carried up a ladder and propel itself along the gutter.

9. E. Flash drives also have been decorated with Star Wars figures or scented like fruit. Sales of flash drives rose 66 percent last year to 232 million units, according to Web-Feet Research Inc.

10. A. Microsoft recently agreed to pay a total of $21 million without admitting or denying guilt for allegedly receiving money from online gambling companies for advertising on its Web sites. Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. agreed to smaller fines at the same time.

U.S. regulators maintain Internet gambling is illegal, but they can't go after offshore operators. Instead, they have cracked down on mainstream U.S. financial firms to stop them from handling payments and have gone after popular advertising-driven Web sites, such as Microsoft's and, to stop them from promoting gaming sites.

By: William M. Bulkeley
(The Wall Street Journal)

February 5, 2008

OVI - The door to Nokia's internet services

“Today, capturing great photos, videos and audio is easy. But until now, organizing it all has been tedious. And sharing it with the people who matter to you can be a major hassle. Now, Share on Ovi makes organizing and sharing your media as easy as capturing it with an easy-to-use site where you can be comfortable inviting your friends and family”.

That was the so called "USP" of Nokia’s “
Ovi” (twango), a new website in the already overcrowded social networking domain. “Ovi” allows people to share photos and videos and is built on technology acquired with the U.S. firm Twango. So let look at what “Ovi” has in store for us. Here are the reasons mentioned on the website for becoming a member:
  • Organize and manage all of your media in one place—we support more than 100 types of files.
  • Share your media your way: privately with one person or with a group, or publicly with the whole world—you are always in control.
  • Bring every participant's media together to enrich the experience of your team, clubs or other groups.
  • Republish your media anywhere on the Web—with access to fun display features such as slideshows and tickers.
  • Find cool new people and media with easy browsing and searching on Share on Ovi.
  • Capture the moment wherever you are with one-step sharing from your PC or camera phone.
  • Invite people to view your media without forcing them to sign up.
  • Get unlimited media storage, 250 mb of upload bandwidth per month, and a 100 mb maximum file size with your free account.
Nokia, the world's largest cellphone maker, has also started to roll-out its online gaming service N-Gage as it expands into mobile Internet services. It has delayed the gaming service twice last year due to delays in software testing and starts to roll out to owners of its N81 multimedia phones around the world.

Nokia is the first handset maker to move strongly into the content space with services like music or filing sharing site Mosh, where millions have downloaded audio or video files, programmes or documents.

Microsoft's reply to Google

In a statement released on Feb 3, Microsoft has responded to the questions raised by Mr. Drummond.

Here is what Brad Smith (General Counsel, Microsoft) has to say in reply to Google’s Comments on the bid, “The combination of Microsoft and Yahoo! will create a more competitive marketplace by establishing a compelling number two competitor for Internet search and online advertising.”

Further in his reply to Question 1, he added, “Microsoft is committed to openness, innovation, and the protection of privacy on the Internet. We believe that the combination of Microsoft and Yahoo! will advance these goals”

But it seemed that either he wanted to ignore the other two questions asked by David or he had no answers for them. He tried targeting Google for its monopoly in web search and was sounding desperate while quoting the combined market share of Microsoft & Yahoo vis-à-vis Google in web search. And if we go with his logic, how the hell will we get the “compelling number two competitor” player for emails and instant messaging services.

And here is the synopsis of the deal so far from Reuters:

February 4, 2008

Google's view on Yahoo-Microsoft deal

Microsoft’s attempt to buy Yahoo will be one the hot topics in this internet industry in weeks to come. And Yahoo’s statement indicating that its board would indeed evaluate the deal seriously is enough to stimulate millions of thought processes.

But if you were wondering, how Google does feels about this, here is the answer. Mr. David Drummond (Senior Vice President, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer) has posted Google's first official response to the proposed deal “Yahoo! and the future of the Internet”, and it has some bite. He has raised several questions that bring forth the darker side of this deal. He thinks the its much more than just “simply a financial transaction, one company taking over another. It's about preserving the underlying principles of the Internet: openness and innovation.”

And here are the questions if anyone wants to answer:

Question 1) Could Microsoft now attempt to exert the same sort of inappropriate and illegal influence over the Internet that it did with the PC? While the Internet rewards competitive innovation, Microsoft has frequently sought to establish proprietary monopolies -- and then leverage its dominance into new, adjacent markets.

Question 2) Could the acquisition of Yahoo! allow Microsoft -- despite its legacy of serious legal and regulatory offenses -- to extend unfair practices from browsers and operating systems to the Internet? In addition, Microsoft plus Yahoo! equals an overwhelming share of instant messaging and web email accounts. And between them, the two companies operate the two most heavily trafficked portals on the Internet.

Question 3) Could a combination of the two take advantage of a PC software monopoly to unfairly limit the ability of consumers to freely access competitors' email, IM, and web-based services?

And he summed it up saying that “the interests of Internet users come first -- and should come first -- as the merits of this proposed acquisition are examined and alternatives explored”

Dotcom Pioneers: Where are they now?

Hey, this is a nice compilation of the pioneering tech companies that made the Web what it is today (by Josh Lowensoh, Scott Ard, Elinor Mills, Greg Sandoval, and Jon Skillings of Some of them continue to innovate and turn a profit, while others have either died off or been consumed by larger companies. After being launched in 1997, Web guide service was picked up by The New York Times company in 2005 for nearly $700 million. About's still kicking, and serving up a large variety of content, both written and video.

AltaVista was one of the first big search engines for the Web. After launching in late 1995, the service gained popularity before parent company Digital Equipment Corporation was sold to Compaq in 1998. It then changed hands three more times to fall under Yahoo's control, who still uses its technology in its Web search. Founder Jeff Bezos' 1995 e-marketplace baby survived the dot-com bust and quickly began to turn a profit selling a huge array of products. It's snatched up over a dozen otherhigh-profile sites including the Internet Movie Database, Alexa Internet, and on Thursday

AOL started out as a video games-by-telephone modem service before nearly going under in the early 1980s. It turned into an ISP beginning in the 1990s, and continued to grow massively until competition made the company change its focus to content. It later merged with Time Warner in 2001. The company continues to be known for its instant-messaging service, portal news site, and as an Internet service provider.

Ask Jeeves has been around since 1996 and was formerly known for its cartoon mascot of a smarmy concierge-type who would answer search queries. Jeeves was nixed 10 years later when the company re-branded as Ask continues to compete in the search world, but trails behind the popularity of larger search behemoths like Google and Yahoo. was founded in 1997, and like it began with relatively few types of items for sale before expanding to cover nearly every product in every category. The company went public in 2000, but stock values tanked. Company founder Scott Blum bought back control of and took it private, and it continues to sell goods online.

CBS MarketWatch, now known simply as MarketWatch, was partially owned by Viacom until News Corp.-owned Dow Jones snatched it up in early 2005. The media company continues to provide written and video content, both on the Web and on TV.

CMGI (College Marketing Group Information) was founded in the mid-1980s, and had an IPO in 1994 as CMG Information Services. The venture capital company continued to grow, and stock prices soared up until the dot-com bubble burst, taking the company with it.

CNET Networks, parent of, started out producing TV shows about technology and later expanded into creating online content, ranging from video games to a technology news service and blog network. The company has expanded into several major global markets both in China and the U.K. Recently, a group of investors led by Jana Partners announced an intention to try to take over a majority of seats on its board of directors.

CompuServe is one of the better known dot-com pioneers, and also one of the oldest. It's best known for its role as an ISP, which brought it popularity in the early 1990s before tanking due to customer dissatisfaction with bad modem hardware and poorly written software. It was quickly snatched up by Worldcom in 1998 before getting flipped to AOL only 24 hours later. CompuServe remains an ISP with a news portal serving up stories from

E*Trade. This financial services company started from a company called TradePlus before moving its operations onto the Net in 1991 under the E*Trade brand. The company went public five years later and managed to survive the dot-com bubble burst. But it has struggled as of late, along with many companies in the financial industry.

EarthLink is another ISP that managed to survive the dot-com burst. The company started out in 1994 providing dial-up service, and continues to offer it and VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) phone services using DSL, satellite and cable. The company's also managed to branch out into telephone services with its popular MVNO Helio.

eBay. A pioneer in online auctions, eBay is now a more diverse company--and it also faces growing competition from, along with what one analyst calls "buyer fatigue" following years of revenue leaps. In January, longtime CEO Meg Whitman said she'd soon be handing the reins to John Donahoe, head of eBay Marketplaces.

Excite@Home was the result of one of the largest mergers of the dot-com era: the popular portal and broadband infrastructure builder AtHome. The plan was to create a company that provided the pipes and the content (similar to AOL), but combining two successful companies turned out to create one dud and Excite@Home sold off the Excite portal in 2001.

Expedia was one of the first Web services to offer travel arrangements for airfare. It was created by Microsoft in 1996 before branching off as its own company three years later. In 2001 came a purchase by InterActiveCorp (then USA Networks), which holds a handful of travel and entertainment sites. The site continues to be one of the best-known online travel services. is best known for its various handoffs, including one between Atari and Games Inc. for over a million dollars. The site now serves as a portal to AOL's gaming offerings, many of which are casual, and can be played in a Web browser free of charge.

iVillage was created as a media company providing content aimed mostly at women. Created in 1995 by some former America Online employees, the company continued to grow. Four years later, the company went public. Despite share prices soaring in the beginning, they quickly bottomed out. After merging with in 2001, iVillage's offerings began to thrive again, and in mid-2006 NBC Universal picked it up for $600 million.

Lycos is best known for its search engine roots. Now a Web portal too, Lycos underwent huge growth after its launch in 1994. It was enough to attract the attention of Spanish company Terra Networks, who snatched it up in 2000. Four years later, Daum Communications became the new (and current) owners. Lycos continues to roll out new services like Mix. shares a similar title with Craigslist in serving up classifieds for jobs. The service launched in 1999 as a merged solution from two former job classifieds competitors, the Online Career Center and the Monster Board, from which gets its moniker. It has localized sites for nearly 40 countries.

Netscape offered one of the first Web browsers that completely dominated the browser market in the mid-1990s before getting dominated by Microsoft's in-house browser, Internet Explorer (which came as the default browser in every copy of Windows). It was purchased by AOL in 1998 and now resides as a content portal and social news service that was later spun off from the Netscape brand and into Propeller. The last traces of the famous Netscape Navigator browser now reside in a customized variation of Mozilla Firefox, whose support is slated to be discontinued next month. has always played second cousin to competitor The service was founded in 1997 as D2: Discounts Direct, but the brand didn't stick and was later changed to Overstock. It may be best known among investors for its IPO failure and subsequent loss in sales, but consumers are likely to associate it with the company's ads featuring spokesmodel Sabine Ehrenfeld. The company continues to sell a wide range of goods, though it has yet to turn a profit. was a vertical of the model, focusing purely on pet goods and known well for its sock puppet mascot. Despite the killer advertising campaign, the company had bad timing with the burst of the dot-com bubble, and couldn't stay afloat. offers discount travel services including airfare, hotels, and cars. After launching in 1998, the site expanded into several other areas, including long-distance calling, home loans, and car sales before re-focusing on travel. The company is well known for its mascot, William Shatner, who played James T. Kirk in the Star Trek TV series and movies. Priceline continues to do well, with a recovering stock price and profits from licensing its purchase technology to eBay. is a games site that's been offering casual games since 1998. The site merged with the Atom Corporation in 2001, and was later picked up by MTV (by parent company Viacom) for $200 million. Despite the Shockwave moniker, most of the games utilize Adobe Flash.

Webvan. Flush with millions of dollars raised from venture capitalists, Internet-only supermarkets like Webvan spent huge sums to build high-tech warehouses and flashy Web sites, and to hire armies of deliverymen. In the end, the wild spending broke them. The concept lives on, though, with established supermarket chains and online companies like

January 11, 2008

Word Sense Disambiguation !!!!

I was reading about this cool topic which is very popular with dialogue writers of B-Grade Cinema but seems to be one of the major hurdles in the field of information retrieval.

Simply put Word Sense Disambiguation is process of identifying which sense of a word is used in a sentence.

Just to remind, you must have enjoyed WSD in the double meaning dialogues of Dada Konde, because for us it very easy to understand the context of a word, but to develop an algorithm to replicate this human ability is a nightmare for programmers. For eample, when we say “Sachin’s cricket bat”, it’s easier for us to understand that it is related to Sachin Tendular’s bat which he uses for playing cricket, but for a search engine, a bat can be a mammal, cricket is also an insect and who the hell is Sachin.

Few of the difficulties faced by IR can be, queries in some complex figure of speech rather than a literal language, different meaning a word in different languages (remember the “Monkey” controversy), addition of new words, new spellings/acronyms frequently used in sms, chat etc,.

Various techniques are used to overcome this hurdle like Ranking results based on the origin (country) of query, User clustering, Collaborative filtering (Collective intelligence) etc but none of them have proved to be completely infallible.

To me this seems to be one of the major reasons behind the popularity/growth of vertical search engines. Because more or less, vertical search engines knows the context of your query and the ambiguity is reduced to minimal.

I will try to give an example of the same by using my favorite keyword “Fish”. So let’s say you are search for the book called “Fish” by Harry Paul and John Christensen and type “fish” as a keyword for your search query, here are the results you’ll get from different search engines.

Google Web Search

Google Product Search

Google News Search

Google Book Search

Finally Google book search comes to your rescue. It is because Google book search knows that you are searching for a book which will be somehow related to “fish” and managed to throw the relevant result on page 1.

Many search engines are very wisely trying to integrate the intelligence of their vertical search engines to its generic search engine by combining the results. Google, Yahoo etc have also started including results from its vertical search engines (mainly news, images, video) but this strategy has been very effectively implemented by ASK. So if you search for “Sachin” on, you will get, web results, videos, encyclopaedia, blogs, related keywords, and even paid content in a much organised manner.

Okay, I guess enough for now, it seems now I am deviating from the main topic of WSD. But I am sure you must be feeling much superior to a stupid computer who can still interpret WSD as Washington School for the Deaf :-)